Light & Shadows of Chalandor Book of Shadows
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Title: Sacred ground
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From: USA
Registered: 11/21/2008

(Date Posted:02/09/2009 21:42 PM)
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Sacred ground

Powwow 2000 will doubtless be an emotional time, but the members of the organizing committee, comprised of about half native and half nonnative members, hope the event will help salve the unrelenting pain felt by so many.

Nadine West, a Chippewa Indian and member of the powwow committee, has made an annual pilgrimage from her home in Harrisburg to the Indian cemetery each Memorial Day for years. She claims the decision to schedule the powwow during a national holiday of remembrance was deliberate and symbolic. "Those children in that cemetery are our veterans," she says.

Originally from the Cheyenne River Lakota reservation in South Dakota, Carolyn Rittenhouse of Lancaster joined the powwow committee after realizing the impact of the school on Lakota children. They were the first students to attend the school, and more than 1,100 of them went to Carlisle throughout its tenure, including her great-uncle, Thomas Hawk Eagle. Four generations removed from Carlisle, Rittenhouse's daughter Danielle, 9, plans to dance the jingle-dress dance at the powwow.

Rittenhouse believes the powwow also will be a positive experience for non-Indians. "The nonnative community will be educated when they attend - seeing the dancing, eating the food, hearing the stories - so healing can begin for them, as well," she claims. "The event won't only impact native people, but the whole community."

Since the closing of the Carlisle Indian School, the descendants of its students and the descendants of the community into which they were to be assimilated have never come together to consciously honor he students' memory. It is significant that when they do so this month, the commemoration will take place on the ground where the tears of those first Lakota children fell 121 years ago.

"I hope that everybody there has a sense of the sacrifice that the children made," says keynote speaker N. Scott Momaday. "Sacrifice is related to the word 'sacred.' It is a sacred place because of the sacrifice made by the children."

Stephanie Anderson is the managing editor at CENTRAL PA magazine in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. She may be reached via e-mail at
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