~ Host Tribes and Woodland Nations ~
The Return of the "Peorias"
The host tribe for the first powwow had been decided long before the preparations for the powwow began. The Peoria Tribe of Oklahoma is the group that are the living descendants of the tribe that gave the city of Peoria its name. For that reason, the city wished to welcome the Peoria Tribe to visit the city for the 300th birthday celebration. Also, because an inter-tribal powwow ordinarily has a host tribe and host drum, and the city of Peoria has no resident tribe, it was natural to invite the Peoria Tribe to fill that responsibility.
There was also a larger imperative at work, and that was the invitation of all of the woodland nations to "Return To Pimiteoui". (Pimiteoui was the original name of Peoria Lake) A hospitality committee, comprised of Dr. Michael Shinkle and Les Whisler, sent letters explaining the celebration to many tribes, and carried the news of the event along with the invitation to attend to many acquaintances in Native American Circles. In the end, over 70 leaders of nations and native american groups were contacted and extended invitations to attend as honored guests. As indicated by the Native American sign-in sheets from the hospitality booth, around 30 tribes were represented by the attendees of the powwow.
The Return of the "Prairie Potawatomi"
The Illini Federation of Tribes left this area in the late 1700s, and located themselves in the St.Louis/ Cahokia area. At that time they were replaced by the 3 Fire Council of tribes, Potawatomi, Ojibways and Ottoways, who had driven them south. The Potawatomies and their close cousins, the Kickapoos, were then the dominant tribe in the Illinois River Valley. They lived here, on what was by tradition Sac and Fox land, with the blessing of the Sac and Fox, who had been long time enemies of the Illinois, (Peorias).
The Sac and Fox signed the treaties relinquishing this land to the U.S., and the Potawatomies were the last tribe to call the land home. And they were the tribe that was forcibly removed by the U.S. government. For that reason, we felt it especially important, to make every effort to have these tribes represented at Return To Pimiteoui. We enjoyed some success at that, having representatives of both tribes, in attendance, but it was in the 9th year of the Powwow, that the "Prairie Potawatomi" who were the actual descendants of the tribe who inhabited this valley returned. They were the host tribe, and the head dancers, Thunderchild Thomas and Olivia Pewamo, were both from the Mayetta Reservation, and descendants of Gomo, Senachwine and Shabbona. Our spiritual leader, Jim McKinney came from the reservation that year, as well as the host drum, "Whistlin Wind". This was one of the most important reunions that has taken place during the Pimiteoui Powwow in the mind of this author. And as we sat discussing the history of this land with the many visitors from the reservation in Mayetta Kansas, we found that each of the famous chiefs that we had read about in the history of these lands were close relatives of the people that we spoke with. They called them grandfather or uncle.. For this author, this is when the real reunion, that began in 1992, was finally accomplished.
The Melting Pot of the Illinois River Valley"
Illinois was something of a melting pot of native tribes, as the land here was called, "Pimiteoui" which meant "fat" in the language of the forebearers. It was called that because the game was so plentiful, the gathering so rich, and maple sugar was in abundance here. It was easy for the people who lived here in this river valley to get fat! So the tribes tended to share the land, rather than fighting over it, because any tribe would be outnumbered by their jealous neighbors. For this reason, a large number of tribes called the Illinois River Valley "home". And in the oral traditions of the tribes you find a very surprising list of tribes who once lived here. The Cree and Cheyenne people have Illinois as a former homeland. The Shawnee and a number of Siouxan tribes that we think of as plains indians, once lived here. The Seminole tribe also has this area as a former homeland, as well as the many branches of the Illini confederation, the Kaskaskias, Weas, Peorias, Cahokias. The closely related Miamies, were at home here as well. The tribes of the Iroquois Confederation also settled to some extent after their defeat of the Illini, and so we have Seneca, Mohawks and all the other tribes of that confederation who have called this home. There was documentation of a Seneca village on the Mackinaw in the early 1800s.
What we have attempted with the "Return to Pimiteoui" Powwow is to welcome all of these former resident tribes into the circle, to celebrate this land in an inter-tribal atmosphere.