Zion event celebrates Native American heritage, tradition

Potawatomi Trails Pow Wow ‘all about inclusion’

Julie Hill, of Oneida, Wis., an Oneida tribal member, and Bill Brown, founder/coordinator and U.S. Navy veteran, walk in the Grand Entry during the 30th Annual Potawatami Trails Pow-Wow at Shiloh Park on Saturday, August 26th in Zion. 
Photo by Candace H. Johnson for Shaw Local News Network

ZION – Drawing thousands, the 30th annual Potawatomi Trails Pow Wow in Zion featured dance, storytelling and songs rich in Native American history.

But the Aug. 26-27 event represented more than simply a celebration of heritage to those who attended.

“It’s one of the only traditional powwows that still exist,” said Tih Kobolson of Kenosha, Wisconsin, a Cherokee Choctaw native who attends the event every year.

The event didn’t involve any sort of dance competition like other powwows have included. The event was about tradition, honor and heritage. It was a time to reflect and teach younger generations about the history of Native Americans.

There was a period in history when Native Americans weren’t allowed to dance, pray and remain active in their culture, Kobolson said.

“People took over our land and deemed us as not even being human,” she said. “It’s important for us to stick together and to teach people we are human beings … and we believe in living by Mother Nature and the beauty of what we’ve been given by the Creator.

“We’re just here to heal.”

An award-winning artist, Kobolson represented one of many trader booths at the event. Her drawings are inspired by the traditions and history of Native Americans.

The artwork and the powwow both help heighten awareness of Native American heritage.

“There were a lot more people this year, a lot more needing to feel the connection of healing and being a part of something good and positive, fully of kind energy,” Kobolson said. “It was really great to be a part of that.”

Hosted by the about 30-member Potawatomi Trails Pow Wow Committee, the annual event is named after the trails established by Native Americans in the area. Small oak saplings were bent and tied into knots as signs to show the correct direction to travel.

Modern-day Sheridan Road and Green Bay Road in Lake County were built following these trails.

The location of the event at Shiloh Park once served as a spot where a Native American council worked, said Bill Brown, Potawatomi Trails Pow Wow Committee chairman and a founding member of the Zion event.

Brown, who retired and now lives in Kentucky, said this year’s Pow Wow was his last as coordinator. Because he’s done it 30 years, he said, “It’s time for me step back.”

Still, he’s proud of the event’s success and confident it will continue.

“There’s a lot of history in this area, and a lot of people don’t look at it,” said Brown, a Cherokee, Choctaw and Creek native. “I was excited to be able to talk about it. … We’re trying to keep it traditional. One of the things we use the Pow Wow as is a teaching tool, to knock down the stereotypes.

“It’s all about inclusion for us. We don’t make this strictly just to be something only natives are involved in. It’s about teaching some of our culture to people and sharing with them so they understand.”

Julia Martinez Bieschke of Kenosha, Wisconsin, has attended the event regularly for about two decades. Her family is indigenous and Bieschke would bring her mother every year to the Pow Wow, where she received special treatment and enormous respect as an elder.

After her mother died in 2020 at age 96, Bieschke found it difficult to return, but decided to bring her great-niece, Aurora Toto, this year to teach her “the way of my mother, myself.”

“It was wonderful,” Bieschke said.