Mahkato Wacipi draws big crowds as weather is stellar

Sep. 16—Vicki Proehl and her daughter Hailey, 11, were attending their first Mahkato Wacipi at Land of Memories Park this weekend.

"She had Indian Lore for Scouts, so she's checking things out here," Vicki said.

Hailey was spending a lot of time in the White Fox Fur & Feather vendor booth.

"I love the furs," Hailey said, running her fingers through the various pelts displayed by the Pemberton-based business, which has displayed at the powwow for years.

Hailey said that while learning about Native Americans at her Waseca Scouts troop she made a bag and learned about kayaks and canoes. The Waseca Boy Scouts of America recently started a girls' troop.

"I learned how to set up a teepee," Hailey said.

Her mom said she was glad they came to the powwow.

"It's great to expose them to cultures and to respect them," Vicki said.

Ray Hawk, who lives near Chamberlain, South Dakota, was one of the many vendors selling native goods at the powwow.

He makes a variety of bags using soft leather, tooled leather, fabric and fur.

"I'm a saddle maker. I make whatever comes to me," he said of the bags that come in a variety of sizes and designs.

One bag features a bobcat head and fur. Asked where the bobcat came from, Hawk deadpanned, "From China." Then he cracked a smile and chuckled, "Doesn't everything come from China now?"

The bobcat, in fact, was trapped by his son.

The 51st annual Wacipi drew good crowds amid perfect weather. After a nice rain moved through Friday morning, the sun came out in the afternoon for the opening day. The powwow continues Sunday, with the Grand Entry at 1 p.m.

The Wacipi each day features the Grand Entry, with all the dancers entering the arena.

Leading the Grand Entry are the flag bearers. Flags include the eagle staffs of various tribes and families in attendance, the U.S. flag, tribal flags, service flags and the P.O.W. flag. Flags are usually carried by Native American veterans.

An eagle staff consisting of 38 eagle feathers was made by Glynn Crooks, a Dakota, in 1979. Each feather commemorates one of the 38 Dakota executed in Mankato on Dec. 26, 1862, following the U.S.-Dakota War. It also commemorates those veterans who have served in times of conflict.

Wacipi Chair Dan Zielske encourages area residents to visit the event. "Come to the powwow and talk to people, you'll find new friends and relatives."

He said the powwow has steadily grown over the decades.

"It's gotten bigger and more people show up. We've added vendors over the years."

The first Wacipi was in 1972, and was one of the few powwows in the United States at the time.

Zielske said there is only one member of the original powwow planning group left — Vernell Wabasha, who was the wife of the late Chief Wabasha.

While there are now many powwows across the country, the Land of Memories one is unique.

"We follow a traditional role of trying to continue what was taught to us by Amos Owen and the Owen family and that makes us different. Most powwows are what I call contest powwows. They have prizes for the best dancers and best drum group. We don't do prizes like that," he said.

The late Amos Owen was the spiritual leader of the Dakota.

"It's a gathering of extended family before the cold of winter sets in."

Zielske has been on the powwow committee for 30 years and was introduced to the Dakota via his quest to compose a musical piece.

He grew up on a farm near Blue Earth and attended Mankato State University in 1981, where he was getting an advanced degree in music.

"I wanted to write an orchestra chorale for the 38 who were hanged and I wanted to write it in Dakota."

He attended a powwow meeting and met the late Bud Lawrence (one of the first powwow organizers) who suggested Zielske go and meet Ray Owen (son of Amos) at Prairie Island. "I went and met him and I've been involved in the powwow ever since."

Zielske said the committee is in transition.

"We're all getting older and we need to let the younger ones take over. We're losing a number of people who have been there a long time. Most are retiring because of health issues," he said.

"We are getting some new people involved in the last couple of years who will be taking over when some of us get too old."

For more information on this year's Mahkato Wacipi, visit