ROCK ISLAND — The pulse of the drum filled the Black Hawk State Historic Site.|
Soon, a singer and several dancers in full Native American regalia joined in, the bells on their legs and ankles ringing in time with the drum.
Hundreds gathered around the grassy stage, on picnic tables, lawn chairs and blankets, watching intently and nodding to the beat as the dancers circled the area, the feathers on their clothes and headdresses bouncing with their rhythm.
Sarah Gilbert's three kids never moved during the grand entry Saturday, kicking off the73rd annual Labor Day Weekend Pow Wow hosted by the Native American Coalition of the Quad Cities,the Citizens to Preserve Black Hawk Park Foundation and Black Hawk State Historic Site.
The Barstow woman stood with her mother, Linda Hubbard, and son, Kaeleb, 10, and her daughters, Gwendolyn, 9, and Addison, 6, laid in the grass, propping their heads on their hands, mesmerized by the dancers.
It was Ms. Gilbert's family's first pow wow, but her mother said she's attended the celebration several times during the years.
"My great,great-great-grandmother was Cherokee," Ms. Hubbard said, smiling with pride and turning her head back to the dancers.
"I love it."
Ms. Gilbert said she came with her mother and brought her kids this year because she "thought it would be great."
Being there gave her goosebumps, she said.
Christine Graf, of Rock Island, also is a Cherokee descendant. She and her husband, Greg, have frequented the pow wow for the last few years.
"I love to think about my heritage," Ms. Graf said, noting the high cheekbones and olive skin of the dancers as she smiled, adding that her father shares the same features.
She said her father and her aunt often talked about her family's ancestors, and now that she's an adult, she is wanting to learn more.
"Even though (Native Americans) have changed with the times, they still hold on to that heritage," she said.
"I love it. I think it's fascinating," she said, adding that she "appreciates where we came from."
Native American Coalition of the Quad Cities president Regina Tsosie said the organization is trying to continue the tradition of the annual pow wow. It was established in 1940 with the help of John Hauberg, she said, to celebrate the return of the Sauk and Meskwaki (Fox) to their homeland with Native American singing, drumming and traditional dancing.
It's an "exchanging of cultures, friendship, values and tradition," she said.
Ms. Tsosie said the pow wow also serves to dispel a lot of stereotypes and myths about native people. "No, we're not all dead," she said.
Many of the dances performed at the pow wow are specialty, traditional and ceremonial dances, while others are new, she said, adding that "a lot of the dances have meaning."
The grounds where the pow wow is held are sacred, too. For theMeskwaki and Sauk people, "this was their home," Ms. Tsosie said. "I think a lot of people either forget that or they don't know."
The people lived on these grounds, she said, and worshiped "this earth." It's a "living history," she said. "You don't get this in a history book."
Ms. Tsosie said the celebration continues today at the Black Hawk State Historic Site, 1510 46th Ave., Rock Island. The grounds, food and craft vendors will open at 10 a.m., and the grand entry will be at noon.
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