Crowds gather to watch the daily Grand Entry, but the dancers in traditional attire also draw inquisitive spectators at the Midwest SOARRING Harvest Pow Wow.
“We have many, many beautiful regalia that are just amazing to look at. The dancers spend many hours making that,” said Joseph Standing Bear Schranz, founder and president of Midwest SOARRING Foundation. “You can’t buy it at Wal-Mart.”
“In the old days we made the outfits so we could dance for our creator. So it’s a gift to the creator from us being able to dance,” he said. “Now in the newer days there’s so many different materials and … things we didn’t have in the old days so the outfits are more flamboyant.”
The detailed regalia will be worn during Midwest SOARRING’s 26th Annual Harvest Pow Wow, held from 11 am to 10 pm Nov. 12 and 11 am to 6 pm Nov. 13 at the DuPage County Fairgrounds in Wheaton. The Grand Entry will take place at 1 and 7 pm Nov. 12 and 1 pm Nov. 13.
Hosted by the Lockport-based nonprofit Midwest SOARRING (Save Our Ancestor’s Remains & Resources Indigenous Network Group) Foundation, the annual pow wow is an intertribal traditional event that celebrates life and friendship.
“It’s a cultural gathering place for our people to express our culture and to be amongst ourselves,” Schranz said. “But it’s also a place for other people to learn about us.”
So many people think the pow wows are just for those who are Native American, he said.
“It’s not, it’s for everybody,” Schranz said. “We share our culture and we’re happy that so many attendees come and go away with a better feeling about themselves.”
The two days will feature drumming, dancers, a kids corner, arts and crafts, guest speakers, programs and more.
“We’re going to have at least three of our big drums,” Schranz said. “One from Indiana and two from Wisconsin.”
Vendors from as far away as Canada will sell items including silver work, beadwork and carved wooden feathers, he said.
Live hawk demonstrations, performances by Aztec dancers and a Native flute player will also be presented.
“And a couple of surprises as long as the way,” Schranz said.
The pow wow is expected to draw members of close to two dozen tribes.
“We never know exactly but I would say easily there’s 20 or more tribes that are there,” Schranz said. “There will be Navajo, there will be Apache, there will be Ojibwe, Cherokee. There’s quite a few different tribes.”
“At one time prior to contact we had over 700 native nations in North America. I believe right now we’ve got 566,” he said.
The pow wow will be held rain or shine, as the move this year to the fairgrounds in Wheaton provides building space for the activities.
“The last one we did was about three years ago,” he said. “And it rained that day so we only had an hour pow wow.”
Previously the pow wow was held at Naper Settlement in Naperville.
“We finally decided because it’s our main fundraiser that we couldn’t afford to lose any more revenue that way so it’s going to be indoors from now on,” Schranz said.
Money raised at the pow wow helps fund scholarships as well as programs and classes by Midwest SOARRING.
“A bunch of things to increase people’s knowledge not only about us but about themselves and how they can fit in the environment in a little better way,” he said.
Schranz said Midwest SOARRING has worked with are area forest preserves and environmental organizations over the years.
“We’ve saved somewhere between 1,900 and 2,000 acres in Illinois of sacred sites since I first started working on this many years ago,” he said.
An activist for more than 50 years, Schranz said he believes we must protect the earth the best that we can.
“People understand our environmental stance and what we represent. And I think that we all have to join together to really protect what we have left. It’s literally a matter of life and death,” he said. “I’m hoping that the next generation is not going to suffer for previous generations’ deficiencies in knowing how to care for things.”
26th Annual Harvest Pow Wow
When: Nov 12-13
Where: DuPage County Fairgrounds, 2015 Manchester Road, Wheaton
Tickets: $15 adult; $10 seniors (62+); $7 children ages 3-12; children under age 3 are free
Information: 773-585-8613; midwestsoarring.org or harvestpowwow.com/tickets.html
Kathy Cichon is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.