The Family Reunion Festival resumed in-person last year following the pandemic. This year, a special tradition will be back on the schedule when events get underway June 23-25 on Tribal grounds just south of Shawnee, Oklahoma.
Recognizing Potawatomi families will again be part of the 2023 Family Reunion Festival. The honored families are Johnson, Lafromboise, Lareau, LeClair, Melott, Rhodd, Tescier, Weld and Young. Last year, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation did not have honored families but remembered those who walked on due to COVID-19.
The Nation has long had a tradition of recognizing the families that moved to Oklahoma following forced removal and eventually formed the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. This is an important part of Festival as it allows many Tribal members to identify and connect with each other during Festival. The honored families also lead the Grand Entry during Saturday evening’s powwow.
Some families plan activities and games so they can all gather, renew old bonds and create new ones while others explore the Cultural Heritage Center or stage a family photo.
Members of the honored families are encouraged to participate in family heritage interviews at the CHC, both in groups and individually. The interviews provide a valuable resource to preserve and protect family histories for future generations. Interview times may be scheduled through portal.potawatomi.org.
Festival registration opens Thursday at noon and continues Friday and Saturday beginning at 8:30 a.m. inside FireLake Arena. Registration takes place in person and ensures Tribal members can access all Festival activities and amenities.
Elections for district legislators are on the June 24 ballot. Voters will choose a representative for District 10 between incumbent legislator David Barrett and challenger Charles Scott. District 11 voters will choose between incumbent legislator Andrew Walters and challenger Jay Laughlin. Only Tribal members living in those districts may vote on their representative.
Also on the ballot is the annual CPN budget.
CPN members 18 years and older on election day may vote at designated polling places from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Valid Tribal ID is required to cast a ballot. Absentee ballots must be received at the CPN Election Commission’s post office box by 10 a.m. on Election Day.
During their Festival stay, visitors can take in the new improvements at the Cultural Heritage Center. The CHC received a nearly $100,000 federal grant in 2022 that allowed staff to update several interactive features in the museum, improving the user experience for all. The funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services helped update dedicated touch screens, add direct and ambient surround sound speakers and upgrade computers.
Friday and Saturday
Family Reunion Festival activities are designed to help Tribal members connect with their culture and to explore their heritage more deeply. Friday’s schedule opens with Aviary tours beginning at 8 a.m. and continuing through 11 a.m. Visitors should register for an Aviary tour at the CHC. Tours take place each hour with the last tour beginning at 11 a.m. Buses will transport visitors from the CHC to the Aviary.
The family and veteran interviews begin at 8 a.m. at the CHC. To schedule an interview, visit the Ancestors portal to register and select a time. Sample questions will be available on the portal so individuals and families can get an idea of what will be discussed during the interview. Interviews continue through 5:30 p.m.
The recently updated museum gift shop will be open from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Friday. It has a variety of art, apparel, jewelry, gifts and crafting supplies. Visitors will find more handmade items to browse that are not available on the website. The gift shop will close at 2:45 p.m. on Saturday so visitors may attend the General Council meeting at FireLake Arena. The shop re-opens from 5 to 6 p.m. on Saturday.
An information table for the Trail of Death Association caravan will be at the CHC so Tribal members can learn more about the observance. The association was established to commemorate the Potawatomi’s 1838 forcible removal and 660-mile journey from northern Indiana to present-day Kansas. Without adequate food and water, and in oppressive heat, 41 Potawatomi died. The Trail of Death honors victims and survivors as they retrace the original route the Potawatomi took during their ordeal.
Crafting classes will take place at the CHC in the morning and the afternoon. Both beginners and experienced crafters can learn more about beading, hand drum making, shawl and moccasin making, and much more. The cultural crafting classes are designed so that Tribal members can work at their own pace. Register for classes by contacting the CHC at 405-878-5830. Some classes are free of charge, but others require a small fee for supplies.
General Council takes place at 3 p.m. Saturday at FireLake Arena. During General Council, Chairman John “Rocky” Barrett will provide an update on Tribal business and announce election results.
The highlight of each year’s Festival, the powwow and Grand Entry, begins at 8 p.m. Dancing, singing and socializing take place on the grounds of Raymond Peltier Park. All Tribal members are welcome to attend and participate or just observe.
As Festival winds down, the CHC museum gift shop will be open from 8 a.m. to noon for last-minute souvenir shopping. The last Aviary tours begin at 8 a.m. and continue through 11 a.m. The CHC closes for the day at 12:30 p.m.
For more information about the 2023 Family Reunion Festival, visit cpn.news/festival or consult the schedule in the registration packet.