Native people are resilient, and so winter's grip didn't prevent the Brothertown Nation from celebrating their spring ritual. Visiting veterans from Menominee and Mohican Nations joined the Brothertown: the Eagle Staffs and flags were assembled, and we enjoyed perfect indoor weather for a spring powwow in Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin. Eagle Singers, Gee tah sae, Medicine Bear, Ole' Milwaukee and Star Nation Jr. set down the beats that carried the message of celebration to the ancients. Head Dancers Mr. Earl Wescott and his daughter Katesha carried out their responsibilities to the tee, and as the sun came out, so did the participants.
The mood was one of both looking forward and honoring the past. Last June’s Lake Winnebago Water Walk rallied the base, but anticipation for the June 14, 2018 event was palpable. Protecting our water is important to everyone—whether they know it or not. Nebey (water) is an ancient spirit and needs to be honored and protected and this activity is a way to do both. We human beings need water to survive, and the urgency of that message took hold amongst the crowd at the powwow. We water protectors are more than a show pony protest.
The invocation came from Mr. Dennis Kenote, a Menominee veteran and fluent speaker. His words formed a poem of thanks which was felt by all, even by those who didn’t know a word of Menominee. The drums filled the day with song after song. There was something for everyone—spot dances for cash, candy dances for the children, and fun events like the heads-n-tails dance for the older crowd. It was necessary to have a blanket dance for a fire victim family on the Menominee reserve, and it netted $200.00 thanks to the generous people in attendance.
Despite the good times, the dark past that brought many of us to what’s now Wisconsin was a continuing discussion during the powwow. They also ran PowerPoint slides showing the homelands of the Pequot which ran from Massachusetts south to Connecticut, Rhode Island and parts of the Long Island in New York. The British wanted their land and the conflicts known as the Pequot War raged from 1636 to 1638. It ended when the king’s army burned the Pequot Village, killing up to 700 souls on a winter’s night. To add enduring insult to the unthinkable injury, the tribe was deemed extinct and law decreed that identifying as Pequot was akin to asking to meet the Creator.
As we remembered what happened to the ancestors, we thought about the survivors that joined the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of the Mohicans. Those brave souls became a part of our tribe and centuries of their descendants walked the same paths we did. This brought us all to Wisconsin, and on this Saturday to Fond Du Lac where we remembered the past, celebrated the present, and vowed to protect our shared future.
Larry P. Madden (Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Wisconsin) was born and raised in the Sturgeon Bay area. A recent graduate of CMN, he enjoys the Powwow trail and strives to maintain balance on the red road.