Sunday, or First Day, September 10th, was the third day of this journey, and the original reason for it, to attend the Native American Prairie Awakening celebration. The day began with pre-meeting discussion of the relationship between the individual and the Quaker meeting, then meeting for worship.
Around 3 pm Russ and Jackie Leckband picked me up and we went to the Kuehn Conservation Area about 3 miles from the meetinghouse, where the annual Native American Prairie Awakening celebration, sponsored by the Dallas County government, was being held. We learned during the celebration this Conservation Area was selected as one of the seven wonders of Iowa. Although this was my first time here, Russ and Jackie and many Bear Creek Quakers have been involved with this event and people for many years.
Walking from the grass parking lot through the tall prairie grass, we first passed a tipi, which people can camp in.
As people greeted Russ and Jackie, and met me, I learned one of them had beaded the band on Russ’s hat.
Seeing my camera, I was invited to document the Monarch butterflies in the milkweed garden.
Regarding taking photos, I am aware of the concept of cultural appropriation, so I had exchanged emails with Chris Adkins, the conservation officer, ahead of time. He approved me taking photos, asking that they be shared with the Conservation Area.
I also asked permission from Rob Knuth, when I began taking photos of the burning of the sage and, I think, blessing of the flags that were then placed on poles around the celebration area. He asked that photos not be taken when he presented a peace pipe to a friend during the ceremony.
People began to gather around the circle, with the drums in the center. The celebration began with the grand entrance.
Several drum songs were played, and everyone was invited to dance.
Howard Crow Eagle was then honored for his many years of not only working on this event, but many other things, including with youth at risk. People were invited to greet Howard. Then as each person passed him, they were invited to greet each person who had done so, which meant, in the end, every one of us greeted every other person there!!
Rob Knuth then shared the history of the Prairie Awakening event.
Next people were invited to hold one of the 19 butterflies that had been tagged to track their migration to Mexico. Each one was to be kissed, then all released at the same time with the word “Adios”
Dallas Chief Eagle and his daughter then performed an amazing hoop dance.
Mike brought a raptor that had been injured around the circle, then released it.
Irma, who had cooked meals for the celebration for many years, was honored and given a blanket.
Children and adults then gathered around as Jerome Kills Small told stories.
Finally, as darkness fell, we moved to the area in front of the tipi where wood had been stacked for the bonfire. As the fire burned, Dallas Chief Eagle spoke for a long time, teaching us how to be still and empty our minds, to learn to listen to the spirit. And how as we practice this, we will recognize the spirit in others. This was fascinating for the eight or so Quakers in the audience to hear since that is our own spiritual practice.
Then he and his daughter taught the children to hoop dance around the fire.
After sending the following link to all of the photos from Prairie Awakening to Chris Adkins, he wrote “they will also bring a smile to our faces as we remember this time shared with friends as we awaken the prairie and ourselves”