Heritage Happened…

I don’t want this to become a diary, but there are times when something experienced is worth sharing.

This is one of those times.  I recently attended the 37th Annual Honor the Earth Homecoming Celebration & Pow-Wow on impressive ceremonial grounds within the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation near Hayward, WI.  What I saw was historical and inspirational wrapped in one colorful package.

This was a reunion, a celebration, an observance and an artistic display of harmony the likes of which I haven’t seen in several decades of life.  It was a genuine display of harmony, between those in attendance and an accord with all who have come before.

The Native American existence has never been easy and one can sense it in those within the bloodline, from the very young to the very old.  Beneath the outward smiles and the camaraderie lives the ever-present feeling that there is, and has been, a burden reluctantly delivered from generation to generation.  An encumbrance that began within the hardship of early life in the American wilderness augmented by later injustice and discrimination.  Here, the sacrifices of ancestors are not lost within superficial and artificial contemporary life, as so much of American history is today.

I think what was most impressive to me was the spirit in which these proud Americans gather to remember, relate and renew.  I’ve been to a lot of reenactments in which a certain group remembers the past in costume, spoken word, music and theater – but seldom are they capable of flawless interpretation in every category.  This event nailed it.

I’m also not a student of the authenticity of Native American observances – I probably wouldn’t know the difference between something real and something made-up for effect.  But I do trust my instinct when it comes to witnessing the nature of humans in commemoration.  These were people very serious about what they were doing – with a concentration on honoring a heritage and those who paved the way.

From attire to attitude and everything in-between, I was privileged to witness people gathered for meaningful reasons….with no room for lackluster.  Drab may indeed exist in the world, but one won’t find it here.  The anticipated Grand Entry is like a human rainbow, there to remind us that it’s not what’s at the end of that rainbow that matters, rather life is about concentrating on, and on behalf of, natural beauty.  And at the Honor The Earth Pow-Wow, that kind of beauty is found both on the outside and the inside of those hosting and those participating.  I’m hoping other spectators, like myself, came away with their own positive lasting impressions.

Al Ross

One Response to Heritage Happened…

  1. Ron says:

    It is great that you enjoyed the Honor the Earth Celebration. With all due respect, I — as an Indian person (Dakota/Ojibwe) — would be remiss if I did not mention that your reference to Pow Wows as “historical reenactment” is not accurate. Pow Wows are living culture and many of the dancers are wearing items on their outfits that didn’t exist years ago. Rolled up chewing tobacco lids that serve as jingles on jingle dress dancers’ dresses for example. A great reference for Portal Wisconsin readers to understand pow wows can be found here: http://opi.mt.gov/pdf/IndianEd/Resources/PowWows.pdf
    I hope to meet you at a pow wow someday, Mr. Ross. Take care.

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