July 9, 2008

Powwow Features Activities for All Ages

By Mary Wicoff, Commercial-News, Danville, Ill.

Jul. 9--DANVILLE -- Besides a full agenda of educational seminars and entertainment, National Powwow 14 will offer people a rare chance to meet a World War II Code Talker.

Clarence Wolfguts, the last surviving Lakota Code Talker, will be a special guest at the powwow, which starts today. Children's activities will begin at 2 p.m. and the formal flag raising will be at 7:15 p.m., followed by the general dance session.

During the war, Native American servicemen from various tribes transmitted military messages using codes built upon their native languages. The Japanese never broke the codes, and many credit the Code Talkers with having a large role in winning the war.

Wolfguts joined the Army in 1942. After basic training, a general asked him if he could speak Lakota. Wolfguts told him there were three dialects of Sioux, and he could speak and write Lakota.

Wolfguts helped develop a phonetic alphabet based upon Lakota that was used by the Code Talkers. He and other Sioux Code Talkers were in the Pacific Campaign, jumping from island to island and transmitting coded messages from the generals to the field.

As bullets and shrapnel from grenades rained down and he watched his fellow soldiers die around him, Wolfguts whispered a promise: "Bring me home God, and I will praise your name always."

Wolfguts, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, now resides in the veterans' home in Hot Springs, S.D. He is a Congressional Medal of Honor winner.

At the powwow, Wolfguts will be the honored veteran who will carry the United States flag during the grand entry each night, which precedes the dances.

Besides a chance to meet Wolfguts, visitors to the powwow will find something for everyone -- dances, crafts, kids' activities, educational seminars, food and items for sale.

National Powwow is a celebration of Native American culture, music and dancing.

The public is welcome and encouraged to attend this event, which will be fun for the entire family, according to Craig Jones, chairman of the National Powwow.

"This is an opportunity to see a world-class event, with people coming from all over the country and Europe," he said.

Jeanie Cooke, director of the Danville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, agreed, saying, "There's something for everyone -- from children to families to veterans. It's a very special event. It's very exciting for people in this area, as well as attendees."

Some well-known entertainers will be on hand, including Native American actress Irene Bedard, who was the voice and likeness for "Pocahontas."

She will be available to sign autographs and copies of her videos.

Also appearing will be the Cozad Singers from Oklahoma, who will perform traditional Kiowa songs, and the Young Kingbird Singers from Minnesota.

Cooke said, "The organizers have done a great job. They've really, really stepped up their entertainment with nationally recognized musicians and special events."

She added she appreciates the hard work of John and Barbara Dreher, local organizers.

Powwow points

- Tipis will be set up, and visitors are invited to go inside, ask questions and take photos. However, it's courteous to ask permission before taking photos. And make sure the tipi is actually open to visitors before entering it.

- The grand entry will take place about 7 p.m. each evening, featuring between 300 and 500 dancers. A color guard and tribute to veterans precedes the grand entry.

- Take all the pictures you want of the dancers, but not during the beginning of the grand entrance. Don't go into the dance arena. The emcee will tell you if you shouldn't film.

- Outside the dance arena, ask a dancer if you may take his picture.

- If you join a dance, don't compliment a dancer on his regalia within the arena, or you may force an obligation that wasn't intended.

- A blanket dance helps pay for the powwow, so feel free to toss in a dollar or two.

- Walk around the dance circle; don't cut through it.

-Organizers suggest you bring a lawn chair and a hat with a brim or a visor.


National Powwow 14 starts today and continues through Saturday at the Vermilion County Fairgrounds. Admission is $4 per adult, $2 for children under 12 and all-day parking for $2.

For more information, go to its Web site, http://www.nationalpowwow.com


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