Dallas County Conservation is scheduled to host their 16th Annual Prairie Awakening Celebration on Saturday, Sept. 7 from 3-8 p.m. at Kuehn Conservation Area.
The event will once again feature Dallas Chief Eagle, a world champion hoop dancer, as well as flute music, but also will offer an educational piece from the Meskwaki Nation.
"We are trying to maintain the balance where people can revel in the song, dance and flute music but also learn something that can’t be offered in a classroom," Environmental Education Coordinator Chris Adkins said. "This is the second year we’ve invited a different nation to tell their own story, explain what their song is about and provide a history on the featured nation."
Prairie Awakening is a one-of-a-kind event where native people perform on a piece of public land, sharing their music, dance, and culture. According to Adkins, the event wouldn’t be possible without the support of local donors.
"A year ago in March, the Dallas County Board of Supervisors took $350,000 off our budget so during our next staff meeting Prairie Awakening was done," he said. "I spoke with our director (Mike Wallace) and told him that the event is the core of our environmental education program. It has brought so many ways of learning and so many stories that we share each day that we had to make this happen."
Through private donations, mainly from Jerry Kuehn, and volunteers, the event did happen and went off without a hitch.
"The beauty of this event is not for people to stand on the outside of the circle, but inside so they can experience the memory of the land," he said. "It’s the community and camaraderie that is taught at the celebration."
Adkins also said the atmosphere around Kuehn is transformed after the event.
"The next Monday after all the dances have been danced, drums and flutes played, there is always something different about Kuehn," he said. "The stories that reveal themselves and lessons that are shared are all an offshoot of what we have invited the public to be a part of. We aren’t just preserving wildness, but a part of ourselves."
Learning to respect elders is another important lesson Adkins is a take-away from the celebration and why the event first came to be. "When I went to the Native American Tribal Headquarters with Maria Pearson, it was because of her status in the Native American community why they accepted our invitation to hold the Prairie Awakening," Adkins said. "The whole business of her sitting down at the head table and then me showing her a degree of respect, due to serving her food, demonstrated to those people that we really understood the way of the world. It’s an interesting relationship because all the sudden you understand what the tribal nations understood. "You’ve stepped inside a forgotten part of heritage."
Those interested in supporting the celebration can contact the Dallas County Conservation Board at 515-465-3577.