An annual ritual of traditional song, dance and culture showcasing the life and times of the citizens of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians is scheduled to take place over the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, and the public is invited.
The Pokagons will host their gathering of traditional singing, dancing, and culture, now in its tenth year, on Saturday and Sunday, May 25th and 26th at the Pokagon Band’s pow wow arena, located at its Rodgers Lake campus at 58620 Sink Road in Dowagiac, where parking and admission are free.
After nine years with the name Oshke Kno Kewéwen, the Pow Wow Committee has announced a new name for the event, “Ggaténmamen Gdankobthegnanêk,” literally translated to “we are honoring the ones we’re tied to through generations.”
Andy Jackson is Chairman of the Pow Wow Committee and a member of the Pokagon Band Tribal Council. He tells us, “Oshke Kno Kewéwen means ‘new eagle staff,’” and points out, “Eagle staffs are much like a national flag for native tribes. Ten years ago, Pokagon Band veterans constructed an eagle staff, which now displays dozens of eagle feathers, each representing a tribal family and its veterans. Now after nine years, our number of eagle staffs has increased to two, and they are no longer new. The committee approached Potawatomi language speakers and asked for a new pow wow name that describes honoring ancestors.”
Jackson added this new name can be used long term, and it exemplifies what the pow wow was already doing. Each feather on the community eagle staffs represents a Pokagon ancestor, so instead of the pow wow name pointing to the staffs themselves, it honors all ancestors—in the past and in the future.
The Grand Entries for the pow wow, which are the formal start of the dancing and songs, will take place at 1 pm and 7 pm on Saturday, and 1 pm on Sunday. On both mornings, vendors will set up before the dancing starts with the gates to the pow wow grounds opening at 10 am.
This event is considered a traditional pow wow. The Band’s long-running Kee-Boon-Mein-Kaa Pow Wow during Labor Day weekend is, by contrast, a contest pow wow, where dancers compete before judges in different categories. A traditional pow wow is a lower-key event focused on bringing the community together. Think of it as part family reunion, part traditional ceremony. A pow wow is a time for native people to celebrate their identity and to visit and share with their friends in the greater community; and for traditional drum groups to sing their songs, for tribal dancers to perform their steps, and for craftsmen and women to display their handiwork.
The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians’ sovereignty was reaffirmed under legislation signed into law by President Clinton in September of 1994. The Pokagon Band is dedicated to providing community development initiatives such as housing, education, family services, medical care and cultural preservation for its approximately 5,600 citizens.
The Pokagon Band’s ten-county service area includes four counties in Southwestern Michigan and six in Northern Indiana, with main administrative offices located in Dowagiac, and a satellite office in South Bend. In 2007, they opened Four Winds Casino Resort in New Buffalo, followed by Four Winds Hartford in 2011, Four Winds Dowagiac in 2013 and Four Winds South Bend in January 2018.
The Pokagon Band also owns and operates a variety of businesses through Mno-Bmadsen, the tribe’s non-gaming investment enterprise. More information is available at www.pokagonband-nsn.gov, www.fourwindscasino.com and www.mno-bmadsen.com.
The photo accompanying this story on Moody on the Market from the 2018 Pow Wow is courtesy of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi.