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Audience is “Pow-Wowed” at Historical Forestville


Fri, Jun 7th, 2013
Posted in All Features

Jasmine Fiddler, 20, explains the Traditional dance she is about to perform. Photo by Barb Jeffers

Historic Forestville hosted the Prairie Island Indian Community on Saturday, June 1, 2013 to present a Dakota Drum & Dance Mini Pow Wow. Two presentations were given with the first held at 11:00 am and the second being offered at 2:00 pm.

As visitors meandered through Historic Forestville, the participants in the Pow Wow donned their regalia and set up their equipment. The beat of the drum drew people to the Pow Wow site where dancers in beautiful bright colors awaited. Viewers were seated on benches set in a large circle.

One great aspect of this particular Pow Wow was the fact that it was interpreted. The members of the Prairie Island Indian Community spoke of their heritage. Paul Dressen, Educational Manager of the Prairie Island Indian Community, described the Dakota people as “very spiritual people, a caring people, and a compassionate people,” adding that in the last 200 years the Dakota have “had to be a very resilient people.”

Dressen explained that he and the other participants of the Pow Wow are not a professional dance group. He said the group consists of extended family from the community. Dressen stated, “This is one way we teach our children, through participation in such events and drumming and dancing.” Dressen explained that it is very important for kids to sit and play the drum as it is one way to hand down their traditions to the next generation.

Whether you realize it or not, you also speak Dakota words. Dressen told the audience that many words we use are Dakota words including Winona, Mazeppa, Mankato and many other words the residents in the area use frequently. Dressen stated that even the word Minnesota is actually a Dakota word, which shows the influence the Dakota people have in our everyday lives.

Following a song that is comparable to the Dakota National Anthem, the Pow Wow officially began with the Grand Entry. During the Grand Entry all of the dancers formed a single line and entered the circle one by one and began to dance to the beat of the drum and the singing by other members of the Dakota community.

The first impression of the dancers is their regalia and the many articles the regalia entails. The clothing the dancers wear is referred to as “regalia,” not as costumes. Each dancer’s regalia is made up of things handed down to them, traded, or have meaning to them in some way.

The individual dances featured a separate dancer for each different dance style. Before beginning their individual dances, each dancer gave his or her name and said which dance he or she would be performing. The dancer would then tell the audience why they chose their particular type of dance and what it means to them. The dances included the Traditional Men’s Dance, the Women’s Traditional Dance, Women’s Fancy Dance, Men’s Fancy Dance, Grass Dance and Jingle Dance.

Jasmine Fiddler, 20, is a Traditional Dancer who explains that the Traditional Dance is “the oldest dance,” and she chooses to dance the Traditional Dance because she “loves to express herself” through the dance.

One of the most exciting and colorful dances was the Fancy Feather Dance. The speaker stated that the Fancy Feather Dance originally came from “trading dances with Indians in Oklahoma” and explained that the Traditional Dance style was traded to learn the Fancy Dance style which is how different dances were taught.

Seven-year-old Laurel, who performs the Jingle Dance, explained that the dance is known as a “healing dance,” and the regalia includes small bells covering the dress which make a joyous sound as she dances.

The last dance performed was the Circle Dance. The audience was invited to participate, which many chose to do and seemed to enjoy immensely. Whether young or old each person in the circle had a smile on his or her face and expressed themselves in any form of dancing they chose.

Admission to the Pow Wow also included a tour of Historic Forestville, complete with roaming chickens and interpreters in costume. Alisa Wagner is one of the interpreters and portrays “Nellie Moyles,” a house servant who lived and worked in Forestville in 1899. Alisa stated that the interpreters were on hand to answer any questions a visitor may have. Also available to help with the event and answer questions was John Grabko, Site Supervisor at Historic Forestville, as well as Sandy Scheevel, Site Manager.

Two visitors at Historic Forestville for the Pow Wow were Everett and Beatrice Eickhoff of Fountain, Minn. Beatrice stated that she likes to watch Indian things and said that Forestville is her “old stomping grounds.” She explained that she taught school for two years in Forestville seventy years ago. She said the school was a large two story school, but it is no longer standing. There is a plaque in place showing where the school was located.

The past came alive in Forestville on June 1, 2013 with the sights and sounds of the Prairie Island Indian Community Pow Wow. Sandy Scheevel stated that there have been Pow Wows in Forestville in the past, but this was the first one in probably one hundred and fifty years, making it very special. Many hope it will not be another 150 years before the next one.

Historical Forestville is located within Forestville Mystery Cave State Park at 21899 County Road 118, Preston, Minn. For additional information about Historic Forestville or Forestville Mystery Cave State Park go to www.mnhs.org. Contact John Grabko at (507) 765-2785 with any questions. For more information on the Prairie Island Dakota Community go to www.prairieisland.org.

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