August 17, 2000
Vol. 19 No. 20

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    American Indian powwow coming to Midway Plaisance Sept. 23 to 24

    By Jennifer Leovy
    News Office

    The usually quiet, eastern panel of the Midway Plaisance will explode this fall with the vivid colors, sounds and rhythms of an American Indian powwow. Hosted by the University and the Chicago Park District, the Eschikagou Powwow and Indian Traders’ Rendezvous will include hundreds of Indian dancers, drummers, storytellers and crafters from across the nation.

    Simultaneous events, including dancing and drumming competitions and performances, storytelling and craft-making, will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 23 and 24, on the Midway between 59th and 60th streets at Dorchester Ave. Lessons on the history of Indian Culture will be offered alongside authentic American Indian food. The powwow is in conjunction with the World Music Festival: Chicago 2000 and will include a performance by Native Roots, an American Indian reggae band.
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    The Office of Community Affairs, the Office of the Reynolds Club and Student Activities, the Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences and the Chicago Park District are sponsoring the free event, produced by Gathering of Nations, Ltd., a not-for-profit organization based in Albuquerque, N.M.

    Powwows are social events for American Indians, and people of all backgrounds, and are held weekly throughout the country to help maintain cultural identity and community. This will be the University’s third annual powwow facilitated by Anne Terry Straus, Professor in MAPSS. Straus helped University students create the previous powwows–curricular challenges that are part of her anthropology course, “Topics in Native America: The Powwow.”

    “The powwows allow students to engage in action work with members of the Indian community. Most students feel that creating a powwow is mind-opening,” said Straus. “Our powwows also make clear that we do have Indian students at this University and that there aren’t enough.”

    Recognized Student Organization advisor Sean Bruna (AB’99) took the course and is working on the current powwow for ORCSA. “The class not only taught me about the social and cultural importance of powwows, but about other issues such as Native American education, the Native American Foster Parent Association and how universities and the Federal government recognize Native Americans,” Bruna said. He plans to continue working with American Indians, probably in an urban environment like Chicago.

    The Eschikagou powwow will celebrate the City of Chicago’s early American Indian history, so-named in honor of an Ottawan tribal chief. The powwow also will commemorate one of the most significant historical markers in 20th-century American Indian history–the American Indian Chicago Conference, which was organized by the late Sol Tax, Professor Emeritus in Anthropology and founder of the field of action anthropology.

    “Professor Tax was an expert on the conditions of Indian Country. [President] Kennedy asked him to make legislative recommendations at a critical time in Indian history–the termination period,” said Straus.

    Tax was to address legislative remedies for the social and economic decline of Indian tribes that resulted from the House Concurrent Resolution of 1953, which gave American Indians U.S. citizenship, but took away their tribal sovereignty.

    “It was Sol’s way to ask the Indian people,” said Straus, who studied under Tax. “He facilitated the conference, which was the largest, most diverse meeting of Indian people to that point. Sol led the committee that created a working document in advance, but the Indian people created the Declaration of Indian Purpose, which he presented to Kennedy.”
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    Tribal sovereignty was reinstated during the Nixon administration. Straus said the Declaration, as an Indian view of Indian policy, has influenced Indian affairs ever since. The American Indian Chicago Conference concluded on the Old Stagg Field with a celebratory powwow, representing approximately 90 different tribes.

    Straus and Derek Mathews, organizer for the Gathering of Nations, anticipate that the Eschikagou powwow will be the largest gathering of American Indians in Chicago since 1961.

    “We have the largest powwow in the world each year in Albuquerque and we are confident that Eschikagou will draw Indians from across the United States and Canada,” Mathews said. “We encourage everyone to come learn about Chicago’s history, including its founder, Jean Baptiste Du Sable, and enjoy this historical celebration.”

    For more information, call (888) 947-5004 or visit http://www.gatheringofnations.com.