On land named for a valiant Native American warrior, events joyous and sacred filled a late-summer afternoon Saturday during the 73rd annual Labor Day Weekend Pow Wow at the Black Hawk State Historic Site in Rock Island.
The insistent beat of drums, the soaring sounds of songs and chants and the pounding feet of dancers in striking feathered, beaded and colored garb mesmerized an audience of more than 100 who lolled in the shade, munching on native dishes like wojabe, fry bread and “indian tacos.”
“It’s a really fun time,” said Allie Gutmiller of Davenport. “The food, the outfits, the shopping, it’s all fun, and it’s a great way of reminding people about the heritage of Native Americans.”
“It’s great,” said Raymond Spindel, 14, of Moline, who has been dancing at the local pow wows for seven years. “The dancing is always fun, and meeting new people and introducing them to the culture is cool.”
The two-day event, sponsored by the Native American Coalition, Black Hawk State Historic Site and Citizens to Preserve Black Hawk Park Foundation, features food and craft vendors, Native American music and crafts, performances and displays to celebrate the holiday and highlight the area’s first settlers, as well as their continuing contribution to America.
“One of the special things about this organization is that they recognize the veterans at the beginning of every ceremony,” said Brian Lees, a Vietnam veteran from Rock Island. “It’s a great event.”
“We always love coming here,” said Vicky Apala-Cuevas of Davenport, who was busy over the fryer at the most popular vendor of the event, Lakota Fry Bread of Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota.
“People get to try new foods and others get to revisit those foods that maybe their grandparents made for them but that they haven’t been able to get since.”
Established in 1940 with the help of Rock Island philanthropist John Hauberg, the pow wow was created to celebrate the return of the Sauk and Fox to their homeland with Native American singing, drumming and traditional dancing. Throughout the years, it has acted as both a lasting testament to the culture as well as a means of introducing it to participants of all ages.
“I’m a big fan of different cultures, I have Native Americans on both sides of my family, and it’s great to experience this,” said Jessica Neilsen of Milan.
“I’m one-quarter Cherokee and the feeling of seeing all of the tribes gathered is hard to explain. It makes me speechless from the first time I hear the drums and the music,” said Melinda Moreno of Muscatine. “It’s history in action.”