The 60th Annual Chicago Powwow at Busse Woods Forest Preserve

BY: Will Landon | Sep 11, 2013
The 60th Annual Chicago Powwow at Busse Woods Forest PreserveFrom September 14–15, Native Americans from across the Midwest will gather at Busse Woods Forest Preserve for the American Indian Center of Chicago’s annual Powwow. Now in its 60th year, the event’s roots stretch back to the 1950s—just after the AIC officially opened its doors. The first Chicago Powwow sprang from the efforts of just a few community members, as a way to preserve traditions that urban life had diluted. The powwow continues to thrive, uniting tribes from across the region and country: Ho-Chunk, Sioux, Menominee, and Oneida, to name just a few. We spoke with AIC special-events coordinator Cyndee Fox-Starr and executive director Andrew Johnson to find out a little bit more about this year’s powwow. brief image description or keywords The Grand Entry marks the start of each day. As the vibrant procession winds from the outside of the park to a circle in the field, keep an eye out for the head veteran. He flies the Eagle Feather Staff, which honors the warriors—past and present—that protect their homelands. As he enters, all in attendance should stand. Following him, look for important participants such as those holding the other eagle staffs and the head man and woman. Once the dancers make their entrance, note their spacing, as it is based on tradition and divided by age and dance style. After all the dancers have entered, a chosen elder prays for good health, for the children to learn from their elders, and for a great celebration. It’s best to be present for every Grand Entry: at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday, and again at noon on Sunday. Last year, the powwow welcomed more than 250 dancers and singers and 18 drums. To see these performers in action, attend the daily afternoon dance competition. The men’s northern traditional dance, which Fox-Starr says may be the oldest form of dance in North America, launches the event in the powwow circle. She especially recommends the fancy dance, a fast-paced routine that came into being around the early 20th century, when young men and women who felt the traditional dances were too slow “took it up a notch.” brief image description or keywords Watching these vibrant performances, it’s easy to take for granted the festival’s natural setting. But as Fox-Starr explains, the Chicago Powwow was actually held indoors for most of its history. It wasn’t until two years ago that the AIC struck up a partnership with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County and made the long-overdue move to the natural splendor of Busse Woods. She underscores the importance of finally finding an outdoor venue for the celebration: “Our church is the outdoors. Our ancestors lived in this area for hundreds of years. We are dancing for them.” General parking is located at the Level IV Groves on Higgins Road. Accessible parking for people with disabilities and limited mobility (placard required) is located at the parking lots at Grove 23 and 24. Photo: © 2013 Warren Perlstein Photography LLC