Native Americans Speak offers cultural experience Aug. 23

Marianne Gillespie
mgillespie@timestoday.com
Jorge Pena speaks to the crowd at Native Americans Speak last year.

With the backdrop of the Illinois River, the fourth annual Native Americans Speak offers visitors a glimpse into Native American culture for a day.

“This type of Native American presentation is unique and unusual in that it is neither a public pow-wow nor a private family gathering,” said Danira Parra, president of the 4 Directions Healing Foundation.

“Rather we invite people to walk with us in some of our cultural experiences,” Parra said. “We hope that it becomes a ‘guided tour,’ if you will, that can help the novice learn a little more about Native American traditions, and offer those with more experience a chance to be in touch again with the Native American spirit.”

The event on Aug. 23 at Shore Acres Park features returning speakers, musicians and more from previous years as well as newcomers, many of which come from all over the United States and represent varying tribes.

One of those newcomers is Max Defender, who is an Ojibwa elder, hailing from Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota. “It’s hard to say what we will talk about but when I get there we will know,” Defender said. “Even if we said I’m going to talk about a certain subject when the time came it might have changed.

“The most important thing in our culture is love, unity, respect and faith. This is what our grandfathers told us to hang on to. We just want to make it clear that we are just like everyone else. We have the same hopes and dreams like everyone else.”

Joining him are returning speakers, including Lionel Little Eagle Pinn of Mikmaq descent and Jorge Peña of Apache and Lakota descent. Pinn not only is a speaker but wrote “Greengrass Pipe Dancers.” Peña not only spoke about the challenges of Native Americans on the reservation but played the Native American flute for the audience last year.

The speakers kick off the event at 10 a.m., followed by an afternoon of a mini-pow wow full of music and traditional dancing from 1 to 4 p.m. The Spirit of the Rainbow Drum will provide the music as traditional dancers, including returnees Jimmy Lakota and Esther Tuttle and others will show authentic dances and even invite the audience to join them inside the circle.

The Pimiteoui Cultural Center will offer activities for both children and adults from 10 a.m. to noon and 2 to 4 p.m. Food, vendors and more will be available at the park.

Admission is free. Seating is limited and bringing lawn chairs or blankets is encouraged.

Sponsored by the 4 Directions Healing Foundation and held in conjunction with the Chillicothe Park District, the day gives both Native Americans a chance to reconnect with each other and a chance for others to learn about the culture.

“The 4 Directions Healing Foundation mirrors the diversity that this annual event offers the public — a chance to learn about diverse cultural traditions from different Native American people from various tribes — some 4 Directions Healing Foundation directors and others whom we have a relationship with, both locally and from different states as well,” said Karen Danner, 4 Directions Healing Foundation secretary and one of the event organizers.

“Native Americans Speak also gives people a chance to participate and go away with a newfound understanding of and appreciation for Native American people,” she added. “Through culture, whether it’s traditional stories, music, dancing, speakers, etc., the public gets a rare opportunity to become a part of the day.”

For more information about the event, visit www.4directionshealingfoundation.org; or email 4dhf.smc@gmail.com, call 635-0659.