Indian Summer Festival

Click the image to learn more. Traditional Native American dances are a central aspect of Indian Summer Festival, as seen here in 2015.

Held at Henry Maier Festival Park on Milwaukee’s lakefront each September, the Indian Summer Festival is one of the largest celebrations of Native American culture in the United States.[1] Approximately 45,000 people attend this three day event.[2] Butch Roberts, a Milwaukee police detective and an Oneida Nation member, started the festival in 1986 to celebrate Native American culture. The festival is geared towards both education and entertainment; participants teach children about their history in Wisconsin, engage in traditional dances, and play sports ranging from boxing to lacrosse.[3] The powwow contest is the central event of the Indian Summer Festival. It includes the Grand Entry and competitions in grass dancing, war dancing, and traditional dancing.[4] Since 2016, visitors have been able to view the Living Culture of the Woodlands exhibit, which shows how Wisconsin nations traditionally made baskets, worked beads, and built houses.[5] The festival’s food vendors sell frybread and buffalo sandwiches.[6]

Footnotes [+]

  1. ^ Patty Loew, Indian Nations of Wisconsin: Histories of Endurance and Renewal, 2nd ed. (Madison, WI: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2013), 170.
  2. ^Indian Summer Festival,” FestivalNet, accessed January 1, 2018.
  3. ^ Loew, Indian Nations of Wisconsin, 170-1.
  4. ^ Robert DesJarlait, “The Contest Powwow versus the Traditional Powwow and the Role of the Native American Community,” Wicazo Sa Review 12, no. 1 (1997): 118.
  5. ^ Hannah Kirby, “Indian Summer Celebrating 30 Years,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 8, 2016.
  6. ^ Loew, Indian Nations of Wisconsin, 170.

For Further Reading

Bieder, Robert. Native American Communities in Wisconsin, 1600-1960: A Study of Tradition and Change. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1995.

Doxtator, Antonio J., and Renee J. Zakhar. American Indians in Milwaukee. Mount Pleasant, SC: Arcadia, 2011.

Loew, Patty. Indian Nations of Wisconsin: Histories of Endurance and Renewal, 2nd ed. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2013.


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