Menominee New Year’s Eve Sobriety PowwowNew Year's Eve pow-wow

An Event Review by Larry P. Madden

The Super Moon and bitter cold temps greeted the new year in Keshena in 2018. It was time for the annual celebration of the New Year and Sobriety, and I could tell when I pulled into the parking lot of Menominee High School that the frigid air didn’t deter many from venturing out. It’s a time for a feast, reflection, and encouragement, and contending with an arctic blast was nothing when we knew a feeling of rejuvenation awaited us inside.

As the feast was winding down, the Menominee Veterans and their Algonquin brothers, the Mohican Nation Veterans, sorted Staffs and Flags and prepared for the sacred duty ahead. At any powwow, the opening drums and warrior’s protocol is an open call to the spirits to attend. All spirits are summoned, not just good one’s or someone’s favorite. This time of year has always been a time for reflection, reverence and storytelling. This tradition is reflected on both reserves by the roundhouse gatherings of the Menominee and the celebration of W’Chi ndin on the Mohiigunii or Mohican. This reverent time of year is especially poignant in the constant battle many face with alcohol. We came to a safe place to welcome in the year with traditions as our backdrop.

The kaleidoscope of colors increased as the MC Mr. Joey Besaw worked the dancers closer to the arena for Grand Entry. Mr. Gary Besaw, Menominee tribal chairmen, worked the floor as Arena Director, putting his smile and wit to good use. Wind Eagle, Wolf River, Git tae sae, Menom H.S. drum, Lake Delton and others filled the gym with solid sounds of big drum songs and beats. It was exciting to see the passage of culture and lifestyle move forward, I am old enough to remember when our ways had to be kept hush-hush. I was four years out of high school when Indians were granted religious freedom in 1978, prior to that, our ceremonies were illegal.

In modern time, wonderful nights like these are ours for the taking. After the protocols for the veterans were handled, the sweet sound flowed out of the drums in the forms of intertribal dances and then requested ones such as the Crow Hop and the Sneak-up. My friend, a Water Walker for the Brothertown tribe, Ms. Jessica Ryan, brought her daughter and her two girlfriends all the way from the twin cities to enjoy the community activities. Vendors peddled teas, salves, face painting, and t-shirts to egger customers.

Lloyd Friesen called for those celebrating sobriety from 1 day to 53 years to come forward for an Honor Song and dance. It was a wonderful way to wish a Happy New Year to all of the Creator’s children. Please join us next year, especially if you’re celebrating or contemplating your own sobriety.

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.