After COVID-19 forced a two-year hiatus from the beloved annual gathering, the 2022 Potawatomi Gathering was hosted by the Hannahville Indian Community. The Hannahville Indian Reservation is located near Escanaba, Mich. and the northern end of Lake Michigan. More than 2,000 people from 11 Potawatomi Nations attended the cultural celebration.
The two-day language conference kicked off the week of activity, with nearly 300 hundred participants learning about Potawatomi history, the state of individual tribes’ language programs, and experiencing activities geared toward language acquisition. The Prairie Band Potawatomi Language program was instrumental to the conference. The program hosted a game show style language session for attendees and PBPN Language Director Dawn “Sogi” LeClere presented on an informative panel. During the course of the Gathering, Tribal Leaders voted to officially combine the language conference with future Gatherings.
Beginning on Wednesday, the Gathering activities began which included daily sunrise ceremony, lodge teachings, and workshops, along with a youth conference, youth basketball and volleyball tournaments, youth dance party, golf tournaments, an art show, a mentalist/hypnosis show, a comedy performance by Tatanka Means followed by a singing performance done by artists Lil Mike and Funny Bone (regularly featured on FX’s Reservation Dogs), a Veterans Luncheon, a Tribal Historic Preservation Officers meeting, a Judicial/Gaming Commission meeting and an Economic Summit for tribal leadership.
A few of the workshop topics were:
• moccasin making
• ribbon skirt class
• applique class
• sewing sweetgrass
• plant walks
• lacrosse stick making
• hand drum/rattle making
• making herbal salves
Several PBPN members hosted workshops including Sogi and Cindy LeClere, Josias Aitkens, Maggie Fairman and Maria Fairman. A few PBPN members also set up as vendors during the event including Melinda Williamson, Jona Rupnicki and Melvin Lewis with his wife Tiffany.
On Friday and Saturday evenings, attendees participated in the traditional powwow, with PBPN member Jason Hale serving as event emcee and Chago Hale serving as arena director. Hundreds of dancers followed the Potawatomi Nations veterans groups with their flags through the new domed arena. Both the Princess and Shkaabewis were selected and announced Friday evening. Gladys Martin from the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians (Gun Lake Tribe) was crowned as the new Potawatomi Nation Princess and Aspen Kewayosh-Deleary from the Bkejwanong Territory (Walpole Island First Nation) was selected for the role of Shkaabewis.
To close out the event, the ceremonial ashes were presented to the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, located on the Pine Creek Reservation in Fulton, Mich., who will host the 2023 Potawatomi Gathering next summer. Look for more information at nhbp-nsn.gov.