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Neenah Powwow Honors Legacy of Indigenous Advocate

2017 audience participation intertribal powwow neenah-menasha
Posted at 8:51 PM, Sep 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-15 21:51:12-04
  • On Saturday, Shattuck Park in Neenah is hosting an intertribal powwow for the sixth year since its inception.
  • Alan Caldwell died just after the first event, which he was instrumental in putting together.
  • Alan's wife and children have kept the tradition alive ever since, and they talk about the significance of an event that brings together people from a wide variety of backgrounds.

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story)

“I do it in honor of his memory.”

Cathy Caldwell lives in Neenah, and she’s a member of the Stockbridge Munsee Band of Mohicans.

Her late husband, Alan Caldwell, was a member of the Menominee tribe.

Cathy says Alan was very passionate about indigenous history.

He helped to pass Act 31, a state law that currently requires all levels of Wisconsin Public Schools to teach about Wisconsin Indian history.

“He's always had this very strong interest of being an advocate for teaching communities about the indigenous people in this, in this state.”

Cathy says she and Alan attended a lecture here at Neenah Public Library in 2016 about Wisconsin Indian history, and she says they were surprised that so much of what they were hearing about was archeological.

At that time, the Neenah Historical Society’s executive director was current Neenah mayor Jane Lang.

“So he talked to Jane… and said, ‘Can we do something to educate this community that we are still here?’ And a powwow seemed like the perfect thing to do that, because it brings community together.”

Mayor Lang says she was eager to agree, and that at the first event, something very special happened.

“One of my best memories from it was, I think, Dennis. Dennis came out, blew the eagle whistle, and an eagle flew over, and we were just all like, ‘Wow, this was meant to be.’”

Cathy’s daughter, Ami Bathke, has danced in powwows her whole life, and she says that it’s a very special act.

“My dad always told me that we dance for those who can't. So, that was like our elders, our babies, people who just physically can't, but also the people that have passed on in our family.”

And since her dad passed away just months after the first Neenah-Menasha intertribal powwow, she says she feels she is dancing for him too.

“That was always a connection that we had.”

You don’t have to be a member of a tribe to come out and participate in the powwow on Saturday. In fact, Cathy encourages everyone to join and experience the food, music, and dancing.

“Everyone is welcome. So, please come.”