Honor the Earth born from controversial tradition
Several powwows are held in Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest, but if you want to experience a true traditional one, born from a historic controversy, go north to Hayward July 18-20.
The Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe (LCO) holds the 35th annual Honor the Earth Homecoming Celebration and Traditional Powwow, and emphasizes the tradition that led to its formation, and the controversy that was involved.
Its beginning was spurred from a protest by tribe members over a controversial dam. In 1921, a Winter Dam was established in the area. It was approved over objections of many tribal people at the time.
The development of the dam and Chippewa flowage flooded thousands of prime acreage, blueberry fields, cranberry bogs and wild rice beds that had produced over 20,000 pounds of rice annually.
It flooded three traditional Ojibwe Midewiwin cemeteries, Odawa burial grounds and destroyed effigy mounds from the people called the ancients. The flooding also forced the removal of the village of Post, the Catholic church nearby and its cemetery, and uprooted families from their allotted lands.
Power company officials said the flooding was "accidental," but tribes people found out the flooding had been approved by a Bureau of Indian Affairs official.
In 1971, when the license for the dam was to be renewed, several Ojibwe decided to take a harder stand on the dam. A protest powwow was held at the old Round Lake powwow grounds.
When that and other efforts to express LCO's concerns fell on deaf ears in the government, the LCO Council, along with members of the American Indian Movement, decided to physically take over the dam.
A five-day stand-off took place at the Winter Dam. Those involved in the occupation received many threats, especially from non-Indians angry at the occupation.
After the LCO Tribal council received a definite guarantee of renegotiation, the occupiers were asked to stand down. The renegotiation of the license assisted the tribe in recovering several hundred acres of land, compensation for damages and the development of a tribal hydro-generating project.
In celebration of this victory, a powwow was organized in 1972 to honor the one that was held before the takeover of the dam. The event has continued as way of remembering "the story of people standing up for their rights, and a humbling beginning by a small number of LCO people who wanted a better future for their tribe and people."
According to the event's Web site, the powwow is also a "general thanksgiving for what the Earth provides to sustain us as Anishinabe people." It has become one of the largest regional powwows in the country.
While the controversial tradition means much to the Native Americans, the powwow is now a celebration for all people. Persons of all ethnic backgrounds are invited. The event is a fun celebration, and an education to anybody who wants to know more about Native American traditions.
About 300 to 500 dancers participate in the event. More than 50 vendors sell traditional Native American goods and food.
In more recent years, the Hayward Lakes Visitors and Convention Bureau has helped promote the event. The powwow provided a great event for a trip that can be expanded to take in one of the most scenic, "Northwoods" areas of the state.
The powwow is held at the traditional grounds, where the 1971 protest event was held. That site is at 8575N Round Lake School Rd., nine miles southeast of Hayward.
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