A free, family-friendly event sponsored by the Seven Circles Heritage Center will give visitors a peek into Native American culture on Saturday, Aug. 25, at Chillicothe’s Shore Acres Par
Visitors are encouraged to bring blankets or lawn chairs to the annual Native Americans Speak event, which will feature storytelling, music, craft vendors and food. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“I go every year because of the peace and joy I experience from us all coming together to learn about Native American history and culture,” said local chiropractor Nicole Lackner. “Also, I go to honor our ancestors and to be reminded of our connection to all things and the importance of caring for Mother Earth. There are over 550 U.S. tribal affiliations, and each year we learn from different tribal members. No two events have been the same.”
This is the second year that the non-profit Seven Circles Heritage Center is sponsoring the event after helping with it for several years prior to that when it was organized by the 4 Directions Healing Foundation.
“When the 4 Directions Foundation disbanded, we hated to see this event go, so we took it over,” said Butch McCamy, vice president of the Seven Circles Heritage Center. “It’s just a wonderful one-day event that’s well-attended.”
McCamy said the event was started by Adam Danner of Chillicothe, who frequently traveled around the country to bring food, clothing and other necessities to Indian reservations and decided to bring awareness of Native American culture to the Peoria area community.
“In spite of their heartbreaking history, Native American people find much to celebrate,” Lackner added. “Several Native American elders have told me that laughter is the best medicine. The songs, the dances, the culture and traditions, the prayers that are sent up for healing and peace, honoring their ancestors, the importance of family and Mother Earth are just some of the many reasons for us to come, learn and celebrate together.”
Speakers during the event will include author Clayton Daughenbauh, Cheyenne storyteller Larry Lockwood and Raven Dodson, who McCamy said has spent time working with the “water protectors” who fought the Dakota Access pipeline at Standing Rock and is currently on a mission to educate Illinoisans about water and environmental issues.
The event will also feature Peoria-based national recording artist Paul Adams.
“In the afternoon at about 2 p.m., we’ll have a small pow wow featuring Spirit of the Rainbow, a drum group that I’m involved in with two of my sons, Waylon and Justin, and some other guys,” said McCamy, who traces some of his roots back to the Powhatan tribe.
“We’ve traveled throughout six or seven states and we sing Indian music. Every song has some meaning to it that we’ll explain. We also have some dancers from the central Illinois area that will dress out,” he added.
The event is geared for all ages and will include a hands-on craft area for children.
“Many children believe that Native Americans only exist in the past and have no understanding of current Native cultures and challenges,” Lackner noted. “Bringing children to this local event for fun and learning teaches them that America’s first inhabitants are thriving and live right here in our local communities. What happened to them in the past did not take their voices away.”
Craft vendors and the sale of Native American foods, such as cornbread and Indian tacos, will round out the event.
While the Seven Circles Heritage Center is located in Edwards, McCamy said the group decided to keep the Native Americans Speak event in Chillicothe on the shore of the Illinois River. The location also has historical significance as the dedication spot of Chief Gomo, leader of the Potawatomi
A plaque at the site states that Gomo “advocated neutrality in the conflict between tribes and the United States, sought peace for the Potawatomi of the Illinois Valley and demanded equal justice for Indians and Americans. He could not stem the tide of American settlement. His nearby village was destroyed in the winter of 1813, but he returned her to live out his days, passing in 1815.”
The Seven Circles Heritage Center was founded nearly 30 years ago. Wildlife Prairie Park founder Bill Rutherford gave the group a piece of property in Edwards just below the hill from Wildlife Prairie Park to be its home base. “I think there were six of us who threw in $100 each to start the Seven Circles,” McCamy said.
“When we first opened up and became a nonprofit group, we decided this land was going to be open to all peoples,” he added. An 11-member council helps plan events, which include a winter gathering and spring awakening, as well as classes in drum-making, fan-making and Native American dress-making.
“Our biggest event of the year is the Gathering of Veterans Pow Wow Sept. 21-23. On Friday night we have a ceremonial reading of the roll of POWs and a table ceremony by a local JROTC group. Then Saturday and Sunday both is the pow wow with singing and dancing and vendors on a larger scale than the Native Americans Speak event,” McCamy said. “All are free to attend.”
Seven Circles Heritage Center events have typically been funded in part by the Illinois Arts Council, but state funding woes have dropped the group’s previous grant from $5,000 to $100, so donations are very welcome, McCamy added.
For more information, visit the Seven Circles Heritage Center Facebook page or website at www.7circles.org.