The Mihsihkinaahkwa Pow Wow takes place the weekend after the first full of week in August, honoring the traditions of the Miami Indians.
Executive Director Pat Smith says although planning for the event takes a year, the continuance of traditions takes a lifetime.
You have to enjoy it. It takes a whole year to plan and quite a bit of money, Smith says. Our drummers, they start at 3 years old. It takes years to evolve and bring this together.
The 17th annual event, which begins today, offers a special opportunity for the areas Native American community to celebrate traditions through music, art and dance. Whitley County, the former territory of the Miami, is the birthplace of the Miami chief Mihsihkinaahkwa, or Little Turtle.
Smith says this years theme, We Walk the Red Road, speaks of how the seventh generation of Native Americans carries on their ancestors beliefs.
Pow wows started out a celebration after the hunt, but now it is a form of a family celebration, Smith says. We invite the public and we actually share our traditions and present what were about.
Smith, a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, says she and her husband helped coordinate pow wows in Fort Wayne and Lebanon, Ind., before helping the people of the Miami with the Mihsihkinaahkwa event in 1999.
Traditionally, when a group sets a date for a pow wow, other organizations try to avoid that date; however, Smith says that every year, she has noticed an increase in pow wows around the region happening in the same time frame.
Its just like anything else: If you have a fundraiser and it went very well, then another group says were going to try it next, Smith says.
The pow wow will host vendors selling authentic Native American items, a regalia fashion review, and a presentation of eagles and hawks by Soarin Hawk Raptor Rehabilitation, along with storytelling from rehab volunteer Holly Meyers.
Smith says the event allows children to take what they have learned in school and apply it to an authentic group of people with whom they can interact.
Its beautiful for children. Its an educational experience as well as an experience that just draws us all together, Smith says. I wont say it forms a bond, but theres a stronger understanding.
The centerpiece of the event is the dancing arena, which Smith says is a holy place. The grounds are blessed and photography is limited through certain parts of the program.
It is also important for attendees to refrain from touching the dancers who wear elaborate regalia that Smith says is made either by the dancer or a family member. Some of the dancers received certification from the National Eagle Repository to wear eagle feathers, and if a feather falls off, a ceremony must take place to retrieve the feather.
The eagle is highly revered, Smith says. Hes a mighty bird – he carries our prayers to heaven.
The pow wow hosts several ceremonial dances both days in which spectators can set up lawn chairs and watch the performance. There is also an intertribal dance that everyone is invited to join, and Smith hopes it helps foster a wonderful feeling of relaxation and enjoyment that she says all dancers experience.
Its really hard to explain, Smith says. The arena is blessed. Once youre in the area, you can relax and enjoy it. There are no politics and no conflicts. Its just the beauty of the drums. You let the dance take you away.