Drummers at last year’s Sweet Grass Moon Pow Wow prep for the grand entrance. (File photo)

Gun Lake Tribe’s pow wow brings together generations

Ryan Lewis, Editor

One of the most important reasons the Gun Lake Tribe of Pottawatomi Indians continues to organize an annual pow wow is the value in seeing the tribe’s different generations interact.

Punkin Shananaquet is the tribe’s language and cultural coordinator and chairs the committee planning the third annual Sweet Grass Moon Pow Wow for July 8-9.

Shananaquet said the grand entry was a good example of that interaction. The ceremony features tribal members of all ages in elaborate regalia with drumming, song and dance. They process through a circular, grassy field at the heart of the tribe’s Jijak Cultural Campus in Hopkins.

“It’s our indigenous way of educating and showing a generational setting,” she said. “The elders lead us in and then young people can see where they’re going to be at some later stage of life. And then when the elders make their full circle, they can see those young ones come in and they know our future is secure.

“We’re not going to lose our way of life, our indigenous thinking, our circle teachings.

“And you’ll find families that will have a grandparent, parent and grandchild all dancing during one song, all three generations. It brings families together.”

The cultural celebration is open to the public. The Jijak camp is at 2044 126th Ave.

Entrance is free, though the tribe requests guests bring one canned or dry good. Those donations will help stock the shelves of the food pantry at Project Hope: Annetta Jansen Ministry Center in Dorr.

The two-day event showcases Pottawatomi culture, dance, songs and food. Native American vendors from across the Great Lakes region will offer native foods, art and jewelry.

The local youth drumming group Thunder Buddies will be joined by several internationally known groups. A Wisconsin group called Smoky Town Singers will be on hand, as will Southern Straight from Athens, Mich., Crazy Spirit from Ontario and another youth group, Rising Bear from the Pokagon Tribe. These drummers and singers provide the music for the dancing ceremonies, playing traditional songs.

The grand entry will begin at 1 p.m. Saturday and feature a flag-honoring ceremony, an invocation, a recognition of veterans and a welcome address by tribal vice chair Ed Pigeon. The rest of the day will include a variety of dance.

New this year will be a special Purple Shawl Honor Song Saturday at 3 p.m. honoring survivors of domestic violence.

“We believe colors have a spirit and that they are animate,” Shananaquet said. “We’re going to recognize the spirit of that color to protect those who may be going through a situation in the home, to stop the perpetuation of that.”

She said it was important to pass along the traditions on display at the pow wow to future generations and she has seen it grow within the Gun Lake Tribe.

“It’s very sustainable now,” Shananaquet said. “I like to always go back to the blood memory we carry. It’s like our DNA knows that when we do these things, we are encouraging our culture to become alive.”

She said she’s most excited about the pow wow as a gathering.

“Our community will come together and it brings family together from all over, you see your cousins. It’s kind of a homecoming,” she said. “And you get to make new friends. Some people will be trying on brand new regalia for the first time.”

A full schedule is posted to the Gun Lake Tribe’s Facebook page; public hours for the event run from noon to 8 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.


Contact Ryan Lewis at rmlewis@allegannews.com or (269) 673-5534.


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