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Forest County Potawatomi Community invites the public to its first Round Dance

Photo courtesy of Richard Gouge

“We’ll have six long tables in the middle, that’s where all the hand drums and the singers will be,” said Brenda Shopodock as she tours the Forest County Potawatomi Community Center.

The basketball nets and pickleball courts will be pushed aside this Saturday to make room for the round dance.

“Once the drums start everyone just comes out and does a sidestep around the drums. It’s a lot of fun,” said Shopodock, an elder volunteer who’s been working to bring a round dance to the Forest County Potawatomi Community.

Tribal communities in the Northwoods like Forest County Potawatomi often open their doors to the general public for many of their powwows.

But this will be the first time the Forest County Potawatomi Community will be hosting a round dance.

“The reason we are planning this is to bring our community together, especially in the winter. It’s a hard time for everyone. This will be a celebration for everyone to come together to visit, hear the beautiful songs and the drums and some healing,” said Shopodock.

Now, some non-tribal members may be asking ‘What is a round dance?’

Travis Thelen is a volunteer who has participated in many round dances and is excited to be part of making one happen for Forest County Potawatomi.

“We use hand drums instead of a big drum. We have different singers who lead different songs, also different tribes and some of our own will be leading songs,” said Thelen. “They all just gather in the middle and start singing. When they start singing people start coming together and they start dancing. That’s why they call it round dance. You’re dancing in a circle.”

Thelen says people from tribes across the U.S. and Canada will be coming to participate.

Forest County Potawatomi is also drawing on other tribes for their help in planning and bringing in performers.

“I’m extremely excited to see our community come together and dance together, and listen to some good songs. I’m excited to see some of the performers come into our community. There’s a lot of buzz going on with our young youth women that are excited to like Fawn Wood and those guys coming here. It’s just exciting to see,” said Richard Gouge, Cultural Coordinator for the Forest County Potawatomi Community.

The evening will start with a meal, with the dancing to begin around 7:00.

It goes until midnight, though volunteer Ruth Pemma says it wasn’t always that way.

“Back in the day, our ancestors, a traditional round dance, it can go all night long. Technically that’s how it’s supposed to be going. It starts in the evening. A lot of them way back then used to go until daylight. Today’s society now, I haven’t seen anything that goes past midnight,” said Pemma.

The goal of the Round Dance is to encourage healing.

It’s something Thelen has experienced with other round dances.

“I’ve seen what the drum can do and I’ve seen how much healing it can do, personally in my own family,” he said.

Shopodock knows there’s a lot of need for healing, both within the Forest County Potawatomi Community and beyond.

“We have a lot of grieving going on with our community. When one grieves, we all grieve. For us, we want to bring some happiness into our community and also some sharing. Pretty much the focus is healing for our community,” said Shopodock.

She and the other volunteers hopes this round dance can provide that healing for those that need it and a sense of community for all that come.

The Round Dance is Saturday, February 25.

It’s from 4:00 p.m. until midnight at the Potawatomi Community Center.

It’s free and open to the public.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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