American Indian Center of Chicago Powwow 2014

Grass Dancers from the 2007 National Pow Wow

Cookie and I went to a Powwow! It was mostly swell.

The Not-so-good

You weren’t allowed to drive to the actual powwow, which is held in Busse Woods Forest Preserve, so we drove to one of the satellite parking lots where—if the AIC web site was to be believed—a shuttle bus would arrive to ferry us to the event. The AIC web site was not to be believed. We waited 45 minutes  at Woodfield Lot B, and no shuttles appeared. We finally went to investigate and discovered that the Woodfield lot was set aside for overflow parking once the first lot filled up. There were really no plans to pick people up from Woodfield. So. What we had here was a failure to communicate. Hopefully the web site will be clearer next year.

But the main fly in our ointment was that Sis didn’t feel she could come, though she really wanted to. She has mobility issues. The confusion about the parking/shuttle situation exhausted her, and since the event happens entirely on grass (making wheelchair movement impractical), she didn’t know whether she’d be able to get around. Now we know what to expect. We may be able to work around the venue’s grassiness, assuming future powwows happen in the same place.

The Good

The nice part of the wait: we met a lovely family. Jeanetta, her husband, 3 daughters—I believe the oldest told me she was 6—a toddler son and baby Matthias. Baby Matthias was quite young—maybe 3 months old, if that. The children were charming. When first we noticed their family—apparently waiting for the shuttle as well—we went to ask if they had any idea when a shuttle might appear. One of the daughters, who was perhaps 4, greeted me by hugging me fiercely around the knees. She saw me talking to her mother and figured I must be a friend. It was adorable. Once Cookie and I finally arrived at the powwow, we ran into them and either the 4-year-old or her 5-year-old sister (just guessing at ages) ran up to us, exclaiming, “I didn’t know you were coming too!” just like we were old friends. Gotta love well-raised, open-hearted children.

The Day

The high was probably around 60. In a sweater and waterproof jacket it was either comfortable or a bit warm depending on whether the sun was out or had ducked behind a cloud. The day had started overcast, but by the time of the Grand Entry, the sun peeked through (according to AIC Director Andrew Johnson, who was emceeing). By the time we arrived (we missed the Grand Entry—grrr—because of the aforementioned shuttle snafu), it was mostly sunny with only a few intermittent times that a cloud hid the sun.


Cookie enjoyed the corn soup. We had our first-ever Indian frybread. Frybread is like a very lightly fried doughnut, sans hole. Okay, it’s also not round. The dough was yeasty and not too light; not, for example, like Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and miles better than Dunkin’ Donuts of any variety. Cookie went for the basic version. I tried the cheesy frybread to get some protein. Mistake. They used that carnival nacho cheese on it, which other than being fatty and orange bears no resemblance to actual cheese, or even cheese sauce. The super cherry drink was delicious. Next time I go to a powwow I’m going to have sassafras tea. I regretted not having it at this one. I’m also going to check out the food booth with the vegetarian options; we just stopped at the first one we found, but there was at least one more, with more vegan/vegetarian choices.


Great drumming and singing. Several different groups took turns providing live music for the dancing, whether a dance was competitive or intertribal. The musicians played from under a large awning; each group had its own area set up, and when it was any one group’s turn to play, they would be miked.


The dancers’ regalia, for the most part, looked like something from Las Vegas. Lots of plastic and polyester. But it was colorful and interesting. The flashiest were the double bustles worn for boys/men’s dancing in the fancy category. They wore one down-trimmed bustle around the shoulders and another at about waist height. We saw:

  • tiny tots/first time dancers
  • Junior boys
  • Junior girls
  • Girls jingle
  • Boys grass
  • Girls fancy
  • Boys fancy
  • Teen girls jingle
  • Teen boys grass
  • Teen girls fancy
  • Teen boys fancy
  • Golden Agers


We watched a bit of the intertribal dancing. I even participated, joining Jeanetta’s husband, 2 of the girls, and their toddler brother. Often, though, while intertribal dancing was going on, Cookie and I visited the artisans and merchants who ringed the grove. Cookie bought jewelry, including a lovely turquoise and silver necklace.

Cookie’s new jewelry

I had my eye on a book called Native American Trail Marker Trees by Dennis Downes (he was there! I met him!), but I wasn’t willing to cart it around. I cleverly plan to order it on the internet later. Here’s the web site, if you’re interested:

The Daily Herald has an article and video about the pow wow here.

For Chicago area folks, there’s another pow wow September 20-21 at Naper Settlement, sponsored by Midwest Soarring. Can’t do it this year, but maybe we’ll check that one out next year.


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