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Pow Wow celebrates traditions, culture, history of Native Americans

Maurice (left) Jadah Mueller KaukaunWI dance march during GrEntry Potawatomi Trails Pow-Wow held Shiloh Park August 26 2012. | Curtis

Zion, 8/26/12 Maurice (left) and Jadah Mueller of Kaukauna, WI, dance and march during the Grand Entry at the Potawatomi Trails Pow-Wow held in Shiloh Park August 26, 2012. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 26, 2012 1:15AM

“There once lived a Fat Chief and a Skinny Chief.

The Fat Chief was known for keeping his lodge clean and tidy. On a nice, sunny day, Fat Chief decided to have his supper outside. He hadn’t taken a bite when he heard a rustling in the bushes. Out walked a mother and a child who were crying because they were so hungry. Fat Chief gave them food and sent them on their way. When the Great Spirit called Fat Chief back to live with him, Fat Chief’s entire tribe mourned his loss, including his wife.

Meanwhile, Skinny Chief was known in his tribe for keeping his lodge messy. On a nice, sunny day, Skinny Chief also decided to have supper outside. He hadn’t take a bite when he heard a rustling in the bushes. Out sprang a skinny dog who looked hungry. Skinny Chief picked up a stick and chased the dog away. When the Great Spirit called Skinny Chief to live with him, his wife cried one single tear and wore a little smile because she was free of him.”

Which chief would you want to be like?

J.J. Kent asks children that question when he tells this traditional Native American story. This story teaches children life lessons such as the importance of kindness.

Kent’s Lakota name is Wicasa Ho’ Waste, meaning “Good Voice Man.”

He plays the Native American Courting Flute and performs all over the country as a storyteller, cultural educator, dancer and recording artist.

Kent, who is from Nashville, was at the 19th annual Potawatomi Trails Pow Wow held at Shiloh Park in Zion this past weekend.

“It’s very traditional and respectful of traditional Native ways. They really treat me like part of the family,” Kent said.

The Pow Wow was held in the oak grove at Shiloh Park where a Potawatomi council used to meet, according to Bill Brown of Zion. Brown is the chair of the Potawatomi Trails Pow Wow Committee, which is a non-profit group that puts on the pow wow every year.

The area known as Shiloh Park today was once a hunting and gathering area for Native Americans before the 1800s, Some of the oak trees from those days still stand in the grove, making it a special place to have the pow wow. The event draws 3,000-5,000, Brown said.

“It’s a feel- good (event) under the trees. I think that’s a big draw,” Brown said.

His son, Bill Brown II of Kenosha, is the lead singer of the intertribal group Night Eagle. They perform a variety of traditional songs. He said one of his favorites is the warrior’s song.

“We take time to respect and honor anyone who has been in the armed services.

It’s traditional in our culture to respect veterans,” the younger Brown said.

Song and dance are part of a traditional pow wow. A pow wow is a social event and gathering of Native Americans.

“It’s more of a celebration of friendships,” said Ronnie Preston of St. Francis, Wis.

Preston was the lead male dancer at the pow wow.

He estimated there were about 70 dancers at the pow wow dancing a variety of styles.

He is a grass dancer, which honors the prairies. Other traditional male dancing performed at pow wows imitates hunting and sneaking up on the enemy.

A traditional woman’s dance is the jingle-dress dance.

Each jingle dress has 365 cones on it representing each day of the year. These are all performed at the pow wow, he said.

“I’ve been attending pow wows ever since I can remember. You can think of it as a family reunion ... this what Native American culture is about — singing and dancing. Our culture never be taken away,” Preston said.

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