Mike Stearns

Special to Grove Sun

 Mike Stearns

Special to the Grove Sun

There was a time for all the dances during this weekend’s Eastern Shawnee Pow Wow held at the tribal pow wow grounds near Bordertown Casino east of Wyandotte.  As the hours came and went,  the Eastern Shawnee dancers performed the War Dance, Gourd Dance, Grand Entry and various contests.

But the spirit that under girds the annual celebration goes beyond time. It is in the reconnection with the echoes of the great fathers and through the ancestral ages that brings a deeper meaning to the Eastern Shawnee gathered to dance and hear the beat of the drums that resonate through centuries of shared history.

  Tribal Spokesman Bobby Bluejacket spoke of the meaning of the tribal celebration that reaches beyond the dance and drums and into the Shawnee soul.

  Bluejacket spoke of the Sacred Circle, saying, “It is a cultural renewal where all rancor and distrust is laid aside, where no grotesque thought enters the Sacred Circle. Traditionally, it is a time to renew the altruistic flavors our old ones sprinkled on us.”

  He quoted an old Eastern Shawnee idea, saying, “If I eat, you eat. I may not be able to offer you a lot, but I give you a blanket for warmth and comfort.”

  Bluejacket added, “This is symbolic of who we are is a people. The altruism that pervades our Shawnee world and dwells in the Shawnee heart.”

  For Bluejacket, it is the soul of the tribe, which is renewed in the gathering of the branches from the scattered tree that roots in the deepest of Eastern Shawnee thought and heritage.  As the people gather from the four winds that cross the country, their one spirit is renewed.

  “This is where we come to tune to strings of our hearts the mystic chords of memory our responsibility to nature, living not on the land nor off the land, but rather being a part of the land; knowing the forest, the animals, the wind, the rain, the moon, the sun, the Shawnee; all together, each reunited with the others; in that continuum we dwell in the Sacred Circle of Life,” said Bluejacket.

  He continued, “It is in that circle, the Sacred Circle, where life for the Shawnee takes on the vibrancy of what the drum, the dance, the song altogether means. The drum awakens our soul and calls to us beckoning to come and sing in the fragrance of nature, where again we look to the past and use what is harmonious in our lives today.”

  As the tribe’s orator, Bluejacket, now in his 80s, embraces his generation’s responsibility to impart the wisdom of the elders to the new generation of Eastern Shawnee.

  He expresses that heritage joyfully, saying, “And there are the children to immerse and deepen their interest in the fascination of who they are; to guide them in their search for truth truths we have found important to live by understanding, patience, consequences, appreciations, sacrifices and faithfulness. There at the end, we measure the days what wisdom did we import? Are they stronger because of our presence in their lives for those few days?”

  Bluejacket introduced the theme of the 19th annual pow wow, noting a recent discovery.

  “The theme of our pow wow is the ‘Echo of the Shawnee Past.’ Nothing can ever dissever my soul from the travail our old ones endured,” Bluejacket explained.

He then told of the important discovery of lives and history lost in unmarked graves of Eastern Shawnee people.

 “It was recently discovered that one mile west of our tribal complex lie the remains of 115 or more of our old ones, at least 90 of whom lie in unmarked unknown graves; though their story is lost muted by time.

  “They will forever be a part of us in our daily lives, in our words and actions at the pow wow where they are formally honored and revered, because in every word and every deed they left us they told us no lies and their truth scents the wind forevermore.”

  While spectators listen and marvel to the drum and songs that move the dancers in rhythmic beauty, those that understand the Eastern Shawnee heart listen for the movement of the song on the wind. For it is in the air that the ancient spirit circles to reunited with current heartbeat of the dance and music that gives the tribal people a connection to their deep heritage in the Eastern Shawnee soul.

  For Bluejacket and the other tribal elders, it is how the Sacred Circle continues unbroken from the elders to the next generation and even to future generations.