The 2011 Grand River Band Pow Wow in Riverside Park

This weekend was the 32nd annual Pow Wow (or Jiingtamok in the Odawa ) of the Odawa, Ojibwe, and Potawatame Indians at Riverside Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  The event was sponsored by the Grand River Band of Ottawa Indians though several bands were represented.

The Master of Ceremonies was Derek Bailey, Chairman of the Grand Traverse Band of the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians in Suttons Bay.

There was drumming and dancers in beautiful native garments, and vendors of food, books, cds, jewelry, dream catchers, and various other fun items.

In the vendors area I had the opportunity to chat with Beulah Ogemaw Fowler, a Full Blooded member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians in Peshawbestown in Northern Michigan.  She travels around Michigan and to other states attending Pow Wows and loves it.  She said she will keep on going to them until she drops dead.  I’m thinking she will be doing it for a good many years to come.

Another interesting lady I had the pleasure of chatting with was Wendi Bierling, who runs a sort of rescue mission for wild mustangs from the west.

After the Pow Wow was over I tracked down Ron Yob, Tribal Chief or Ogema, of the Grand River Band of the Ottawa Indians.  Tribal Chief is an elected position that Chief Yob has held for 17 years.  I asked Ron why the tribe has these Pow Wows and he said it was a tribal celebration that brought people together and let them express their pride in their heritage.

Ron was very busy tearing down the Pow Wow equipment and called Fran Compo over.  Fran is the Vice Chairman of the Grand River Band of the Ottawa Indians.  Fran is a full blooded Indian, her father being a full blooded member of the Grand River Band and her mother being a full blooded member of the Little Traverse Bay Odawa Indian Band from Petoskey.  Fran has been active in the band for more years than she would care to admit to me and was also the Indian Outreach worker with the Kent County Department of Human Service for a number of years, so she has been a very active member of the Native American community both personally and professionally for many years.

The band is a 501 c 3 nonprofit organization pending recognition by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  It took several years for them to gather all the information, documents, and taped interviews of elders of the tribe and they submitted their application along with over 20 boxes of supporting evidence in the mid 1980s.  Fran said that the Bureau of Indian Affairs is due to examine their case soon.  I expressed my surprise that it has taken this long but apparently this is typical of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and other tribes have appealed to Congress and been granted tribe status through Congressional act.

In the meantime the tribe provides various services to the Native American community in the Kent County area including counseling and social work assistance.  They also have other activities in addition to the Pow Wows including a Spring celebration for kids where they race numbered ducks in the creek in Townsend Park.  They split the kids up into several groups and have multiple races.  The first duck to cross the finish line wins the lucky child a bicycle.  Similarly they have a celebration for the elders of the tribe in September where the elders get a numbered duck and the winners get gift cards.  Non winning ducks still get a toy for the kids races and for the elders, a consolation prize of household products like shampoo and paper towels and they are served Hotdogs and have a potluck.  They also have a Halloween party for the kids in October and a harvest feast in November.

As I was finishing up my chat with Fran she mentioned a couple interesting facts about Chief Yob.  He is a retired school teacher turned actor.  He is in the upcoming movie, This Must Be The Place, with Sean Penn, Frances McDormand, and Judd Hirsch and another film whose title she couldn’t remember but she believes it includes M.C. Hammer.

Check out my Photo Gallery for more pics from the Pow Wow.

About the author

Weird AKA John Collins

John N. Collins is a writer, photographer, game & coloring book designer and a bad dancer. Any resemblance to the King John character is merely a coincidence. Follow John N. Collins: YouTube Facebook Fan Page Facebook Personal Account Instagram Twitter