The Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s Family Reunion Festival serves as an opportunity for Tribal members to learn and participate in Potawatomi culture, and the Saturday evening powwow is the highlight of the weekend. Preparing for this year’s Grand Entry is easy with dance lessons and regalia classes scheduled throughout Festival.
CPN Department of Education Director Tesia Zientek and other Tribal members lead powwow dance lessons during Festival, and all ages are welcome to attend.
“Our goal is for people to have a safe, comfortable space to practice dancing and being respectful in the circle,” Zientek explained. “The head male dancer and I cover general powwow etiquette and answer powwow-related questions.”
Instructors demonstrate traditional step and the round dance then invite participants to practice them in the powwow arena.
“The men’s drum group also attends to provide our beat,” Zientek said. “Any interested males are invited to come sit at the big drum to try it.”
Zientek recommends watching YouTube videos of other Grand Entries to learn more about what the Festival powwow will look like as well as checking out resources provided in this month’s Hownikan and on the Nation’s website, potawatomi.org.
“In general, however, listening to the arena director is an important way to be prepared and ensure that you are behaving appropriately,” she said.
Find details on this year’s dance classes in the official Festival schedule.
The Citizen Potawatomi Nation Cultural Heritage Center hosts regalia classes on Friday and Saturday of Family Reunion Festival including pucker toe moccasin, shawl, men’s sash, fringing, applique and more.
Festival attendees must register for classes ahead of time at the CHC. Please note, these classes quickly reach capacity, and several require a charge to cover the cost of supplies. Staff recommends arriving early to sign up for the classes.
Learn more about the CHC regalia workshops offered during Festival in the schedule of events.
Other regalia options
For those who may not feel comfortable sewing and creating their own pieces of regalia, the Citizen Potawatomi Gift Shop located within the CHC sells ribbon skirts and blouses for women and girls as well as vests, ribbon shirts and sashes for men and boys.
Numerous CPN members also set up booths to sell their creations on Festival grounds, including members of the local Potawatomi women’s drum group, Dewegen Kwek. The drummers have worked together since last year’s Festival to create the pieces of regalia at their booth, which includes children’s skirts, vests and ribbon shirts, adult ribbon shirts and more. The proceeds help fund the women’s travel to the annual Potawatomi Gathering, which is taking place this year in Canada.
Reva Wolf, Dewegen Kwek member, is thankful their regalia provides fellow Tribal members the opportunity to dance during the Festival’s Saturday evening powwow, especially when it is their first time in the arena.
“Even if you don’t know anything, participate in the contest; it’s fun, and it gives you a chance to dance,” Wolf said.
For many, the Saturday evening powwow is a way to honor ancestors and serves as a time of prayer.
“When I dance, I think of all of the powerful Potawatomi who came before me and all of those who will come after me,” Zientek explained. “That is why it is so important to me to be as respectful as possible as I share this experience with my fellow Tribal citizens.”
To ensure all dancers and attendees are respectful of traditions, follow proper powwow etiquette.