During this episode, we’ll learn the basics of handgames played every year at Family Reunion Festival, practice with CPN’s women’s drum group, and meet the 2019 Potawatomi Leadership Program class.
Each summer at CPN’s Family Reunion Festival, attendees anticipate handgames almost as much as the powwow. It’s a Native American and Potawatomi tradition that goes back generations. The Tribe started hosting the event decades ago, and it turned into the highlight of Friday night of Festival weekend.
Greg Cox, player development manager for the Grand Casino Hotel and Resort, is a judge every year. “The thing is, it’s the simplest game in the world, but it’s so competitive. And I love that; I’m a super competitive person. That’s kind of why I go overboard on saying “point” and “winner” because I make it as big an event as you can.”
The 2019 Family Reunion Festival handgames winners were a family team from Kansas comprised of Potawatomi Leadership Program alumni, veterans and others — Mary Frances Riner, Alexis Riner, Joan Atkins, Linda Miller, Samantha Wichman, Joe Wulfkuhle and Anthony Wulfkuhle. The next competition comes in June 2020.
When people think of Native American drumming, a picture of a group of men sitting around a large drum two to three feet in diameter comes to mind. Tradition allows only men to play these drums, whether it’s at a powwow, ceremony or social gathering. However, tradition also encourages women to play smaller hand drums, roughly a foot in diameter or less, either on their own or as part of a larger group with the men. Every week, a group of Citizen Potawatomi Nation women gathers to practice.
“Women are very connected, and I think we bring that connection into the drumming. It’s a different sort of drumming than the men do. And I like the fellowship; I like the learning,” said Pam Vrooman. “There are stories swapped, and little nuances of things that you didn’t know before that you are suddenly are a part of, and that’s a pretty incredible feeling.”
Dewegen Kwek meets Thursdays at 5 p.m. in the CPN Cultural Heritage Center Long Room. They invite anyone who wishes to drum or sit in on a session to attend. Extra drums and rattles are available to borrow for practice.
Designed to shape the next generation of Citizen Potawatomi Nation leaders that live around the world, the Potawatomi Leadership Program welcomes 10 students to spend six weeks during the summer experiencing the Tribe and Native American customs. This year’s PLP class stretches from coast to coast; the participants attend colleges from Florida to Washington.
“I feel like going through this program, it helps prepare me to be able to work with people who I just met so that I can be a better partner, team member, and also be to develop myself and my identity so that I can be there for those people,” said University of Central Oklahoma sophomore Mickey Loveless.
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