2019 Empowerment Fest Re-Cap

Diabetes Prevention staff Matt Waits assists event attendees with preparing a healthy smoothie. The riders power the blenders as they pedal the bikes.

BY: Michelle Simon

The 2019 Empowerment Fest was a one-day event that packed a lot of punch! A first for the Nation, the free event was held on Friday, June 28, 2019 at Prairie People’s Park, located in the heart of the common land. Over 700 attended from the Prairie Band Potawatomi community and surrounding service areas.

Kicking off at 1 p.m., participants entered the park underneath the Potawatomi arch, at the Registration booth where they received an event “passport.” As attendees visited information booths they collected stickers on their passport which merited event swag such as a water bottle, bag and t-shirt. Event attendees were also able to donate canned items to receive entry into the door prizes which were announced throughout the day.

Attendees at the 2019 Empowerment Fest receive information about services available to the community.

Along with getting empowered with information, attendees could also take part in cultural sessions which included a planting station manned by PBPN member Benny Potts, a beading station ran by PBPN member Joneeta “Ttem” Potts, a drum stick making station with PBPN member, Adrian “Gubba” Hale, and a dreamcatcher station ran by Monica Day Child.

PBPN tribal member Joneeta “Ttem” Potts shows participants how to make a pair of beaded earrings at the 2019 Empowerment festival.

The Fire Keepers Elder Center were also on hand, stationed at Shelter House #3 and they showcased the artwork the elders have been working on over the winter and spring along with being a cooling station for elders in attendance. PBPN member, Mary LeClere taught attendees how to play Indian dice and Roselyn Hale and Judy Wabaunsee oversaw the “Ask Nokomis/Ask Misho” station – which allowed children or others to ask questions and talk to an elder about the Potawatomi culture. Elder Center staff member, Laverne Hale, saved the day for several event volunteers by distributing evaporating cooling towels staving off the heat of the day.

A small sampling of the art created by PBPN elders and shared at the 2019 Empowerment Fest.

All the while, the arena was a happening spot with performer after performer taking the stage. First in the line up was PBPN Tribal member and musician Sage Cornelius, who performed with his violin, sharing his unique sound. He was followed by the Native Blues band, with lead Cecil Gray, out of Oklahoma. In the late afternoon, Ernie Tsosie, a member of the Navajo nation, shared his comedic/motivational performance and then volunteer speaker “Amareedthetruth” Jolie Lippitt shared some of her poetry, raising awareness around domestic abuse. To close out the day’s performances was the blues rock group Indigenous with lead singer Mato Nanji, a member of the Nakota Nation.

Acclaimed Native American blues rock band Indigenous, lead by Mato Nanji performed as the final act of the 2019 Empowerment Fest.

The grand finale of the event was the annual fireworks display. Also, on-site during the day was a bounce house provided by the Potawatomi Tribal Fire Department, and a children’s barrel train pulled by a lawnmower. A modest meal of hot dogs, brats, chips and cookies were provided from 5 to 7 p.m.

Child Support Enforcement Manager Kelly Hopkins engineers the barrel train, giving rides around the park to youngsters.

The 2019 Empowerment Fest was spearheaded by the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Social Services Tribal Victim Services Program and supported by several PBPN programs including the Boys & Girls Club, Police Department, Fire Department, Media, Early Childhood Education Center, Education, Health Center, Diabetes Prevention, Food Distribution and other Social Services programs.

Prairie Band, LLC, Prairie Band Propane, Prairie Band Casino & Resort, PBPN Tribal Council, AIHREA, KCSDV, United Health Care Community Plan of Kansas, Oklahoma Area Tribal Epidemiology Center, Southern Plains Tribal Health Board, American Legion Auxiliary Unit 410 and Morning Light Kombucha helped sponsor the event.

For more photos, visit the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Facebook page.