COLUMBIA CITY — Just over 200 years ago, Chief Little Turtle died in 1812. It is befitting the Mihsihkinaahkwa Pow Wow 2012 was a success with more than 2,000 people attending the 17th annual event at Morsches Park in Columbia City Friday through Sunday.
Lila Park, chairwoman of the Mihsihkinaahkwa Pow Wow committee, said the pow wow is simply a big family gathering.
“The Miami people host this event and is unique because it creates a special occasion for Native Americans to come together to honor, strengthen and share traditions, with one another and with others,” said Park.
“We had people traveling from Ontario, Canada, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and several from right here in Indiana,” said Park.
“It was a great spiritual atmosphere honoring our Great Creator,” she said.
The pow wow began Friday with Adam Strack and Mike Mowery performing and a special Soaring’ Hawk Raptor Rehabilitation demonstration.
Early Saturday morning a 5K Fun Run was held. Erik Vosteen demonstrated how ancient people in this area made, fired and cooked in pottery at the Living Native History display.
Music included Strack playing the guitar and Eagle Wolf playing the flute. The Miami Youth held a language camp earlier in the year and sang the traditional song “Aya Aya!” in their native tongue.
“It was so special. Children of all ages sang,” said Park.
But the most colorful and well attended event was the Grand Entry.
Jefferson Ballew IV “Bear Claw” was the master of ceremonies and he explained the events during the Grand Entry.
First he explained the lay out of the pow wow.
“If you look around you will see four circles. The center circle is the drum arbor or the heartbeat of our people,” said Ballew.
“Our elders give us guidance and the beating of the drums represent the rhythm of life and all of the laughter,” he said.
“If our Creator would look down he could see our heartbeat right here from this place,” said Ballew.
The second circle is where the dancers are. They come in from the east and travel around the circle and note the south, west and the north.
“The third circle is were the spectators are and the fourth circle is the most important,” said Ballew.
“That is where the vendors are and they provide medicine, clothing, food and more,” he said.
After Head Veteran Dancer Daniel Bissel (carrying the Eagle Staff) and Head Man Dancer Tim Samaniego “smudged down” the veterans in attendance the Grand Entry began.
Honored Invited Drums included the Blue Herron Singers, The Brown Hawk Singers and Medicine Woman Singers.
“Outsiders may have noticed how native Americans honor the veterans,” said Park.
“It’s really a phenomenal event to watch.”
“At least two hours was spent at each Grand Entrance honoring veterans who were warriors for our freedom,” said Park.
Carrying various flags the veterans followed Bissel and Samaniego along with Head Lady Dancer Haley Strass, Junior Head Man Dancer Landon Lawhead and Junior Head Lady Dancer Gloria Tippmann.
To end the veterans tribute four visiting veterans received a small Eagle feather from Bissel.
Veterans to receive the special honor were Gus Nagy, World War II; Larry Stodt, Navy during Vietnam; Dave Walker, Marine; and Roger Mandrell, Navy.
The children participated in a special dance called the “Candy Dance” and received treats as they left the circle.
After that intertribal dancing songs were sung and everyone dances to the beat of the drum.
With 2,000 people attending much food and items were available from the fourth circle.
“The vendors were great as always. There was 34 of them,” said Pat Smith, committee member.
Vendors selling everything from fry bread to handcrafted beadwork, silver art, handmade ribbon regalia and painted Native American items.
“We had a wonderful time and great weather,” said Park.
“We can’t thank the staff at Morsches Park and the many volunteers for all of their hard work. The crowds were great and it’s the best attendance we’ve had in three years,” she said.
Park also appreciated the help from the Columbia City Police.
Park and Smith are joined by other committee members who meet all year for the pow wow. Other committee members include Cathy Mowery, Catherine Nagy, Jack Smith, Priscilla Van Allen, Rebecca Van Allen, Dani Tippmann, Tara Lombard and Kristen Lombard.
Together the pow wow has 18 sponsors and many of the door prizes come from them. Other prizes are collected by the committee.
“The 2012 Mihsihkinaahkwa Pow Wow is now part of our history and we’ve already begun planning our 18th one,“ said Park. The 2013 Mihsihkinaahkwa Pow Wow is Aug. 9,10 and 11 at Morsches Park. Plan now to attend this rich cultural event.
Whitley County is an appropriate setting for this event, for here in Miami territory was the birthplace of Mihsihkinaahkwa, or Little Turtle, the great Miami Chief.