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Monday, June 9, 2008

Keeping the fires burning

A braid of white hair hangs down the back of One Who Walks like a mystical thread.

"It keeps my body and soul together," he says. "It reminds me that we've all been given a gift by our creator and it's up to us to use it to help others."

Most days, One Who Walks is better known by his Anglo name, Gary Adamson.

He runs a small electric engine shop on the outskirts of Lake Geneva.

It looks like a single man's apartment--comfortable and lived in.

So does Gary.

Dressed in coveralls with a reveal-all smile, he doesn't look the type of man who would put on New Age pseudo-Native America airs.

He doesn't have to.

He is an Indian--a Choctaw whose relatives hail from Oklahoma.

Most of the time he's an Indian in white man's clothing--feeling the great spiritual tradition, trying to walk its talk as One Who Walks--but without the adornments, save for that mystical braid.

But, for a few days every summer he discards his white man's garb and reverts back to his heritage in full regalia. Dan Adamson becomes One Who Walks.

Those days are fast approaching.

In what might be described as the Indian version of a family reunion with a spiritual twist, Indians will join their white brethren in Lake Geneva this coming weekend, June 14 and 15, for the annual Honor the Fire Keepers Powwow.

Starting in 1992, the event honors the Potawatomi who called this area their home before the arrival of the white man.

The Potawatomi were a third of a larger tribe. One tribe became the keepers of the faith, another designated as "trader people" and the Potawatomis kept the coals burning as they moved from one settlement to the next. They were also known as peacekeepers because of their interest in negotiation over warfare.

In 1836, the United States government deported the Potawatomis to Kansas. It wasn't until a 1929 ceremony that they were welcomed back to the area. Now their heritage is recognized during the annual powwow.

Adamson became involved in 1993 when he was asked to do electrical work for the event and his involvement has deepened ever since.

While growing up in the area, his Indian background was kept under wraps. His father had experienced discrimination and he didn't want his son to walk the same path. But Adamson knew his heritage and, more than that, he felt it through his love for the out-of-doors and Indian lore.

"I was always a loner and loved the woods," he said. "But I never felt alone in the woods."

For Adamson, the pow-wow is an opportunity, a "safe place," for those of Indian descent to also embrace and enjoy their heritage.

"We want people from Milwaukee and Janesville to feel good about themselves, to experience others, to have fry bread and come together," he said.

It's also an opportunity for non-Indians to not only enjoy the event--which includes music, dancing, food, art and vendors--but also learn from the educational areas established for both adults and children.

The event will be held at Dunn Field, next to Eastview School on 400 Sage Street.

"When I wake up each morning, it's a gift," Adamson said. "Tomorrow is a mystery. It's how we walk today that counts."

This weekend Adamson will be waking up as One Who Walks, walking his talk and embracing the mystery of his dual heritage--hoping those who attend will do the same.


To Do

What: Honor the Firekeepers Powwow

When: Saturday and Sunday, June 14-15. 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday with grand entries at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday with grand entry at 1 p.m.

Where: Dunn Field, Lake Geneva, next to Eastview School on 400 Sage Street.

Cost: $5, adults. $3, seniors and children 11-16. Children under 10 are free.

Activities: Music, dancing, food, art, vendors. Educational area for adults and children. There will also be a run around Geneva Lake where runners will visit sacred sites.

Cost: Gary Adamson, (262) 248-2784. Thunder Ruthven, (708) 715-5042. www.lakegeneva-powwow.org


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