“Our main goal is to educate both Native and Nonnative Americans of our native heritage,” said Standing Bear Council CEO/Treasurer Dona Herr at a dinner to celebrate Native American heritage, held at the Ivor Fowler Center in Montrose. The event, in celebration of Native American Heritage Day, was held on Saturday, Nov. 30.
“November is Native American Heritage Month,” she added, “and Native American Heritage Day is the Friday after Thanksgiving, but our council chooses to celebrate it on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.”
There was a goodly crowd at the center, and a long table filled with food – a true “feast,” as it had been billed – so the conversation went well. Then the flute and the drumming started, and the rhythmic drumming and the mellow, melancholy sound of the wooden instrument, was mesmerizing for many in the room.
“We offer programs to schools, libraries, organizations and other places – wherever there are people willing to listen and learn,” Herr said.
The Standing Bear Council offers these programs free of charge and many places in the Tri-State area have taken advantage of the members’ willingness to teach the public.
“We have been to St. Peter and Paul School in Nauvoo, Ill., and will be at St. John’s School in Quincy, Ill., in January,” she said. They have also presented programs at Keokuk High School and Warsaw High School, at Torrence Preschool in Keokuk, and at schools in Wayland and Kahoka in Clark County, Mo. “We have often shared our knowledge with the Boy Scouts at the Saukenauk Scout Reservation in Illinois, and have worked with scouts to help them earn merit badges.”
The council’s endeavors don’t stop there, however. “Each year, we adopt families in the area and provide food baskets and gifts for them at Christmastime,” she stated. They have also given presentations at many festivals in the region, to include the Apple Festival in Barry, Ill., the Nauvoo Grape Festival, and Log Cabin Days in Quincy, to name a few.
She made a point to say that Quincy is very supportive of this council. “Our Winter Gathering is on Jan. 25-26 at the Oakley Lindsey Center, and part of that will be an Eagle Ceremony on Sunday.” She added that the council gets great support from the staff at the Oakley Lindsey Center, from Holly Cain at Villa Katherine, from the Quincy Arts Council, and from the Army Corps of Engineers that opens an area by the river especially for eagle spotting.
Larry Cooper, president of the Standing Bear Council, remarked that, when he was young, he couldn’t play the hand drum or exercise his religion. “Until 1979 it was illegal for me to play my drum and to practice spiritualism,” he said, “and even now we often have to fight to be able to fully participate in these things.” Cooper was a presenter of Native American studies at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Ill., and at Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Mo.
He said that the hand drum is used for ceremonial and social reasons. The drum head is made from hide, deer, elk, buffalo or other kinds of hides.
Michael Eastmond, from Quincy, has a group called the Quincy Drum Circle that performs all over the area.
“We perform at the Veterans Home in Quincy, in schools or for organizations, and have played for people ranging from 3 years old to 103,” Eastmond said.
The officers of Standing Bear Council are: (behind, right to left) Larry Cooper, president; John Bloomfield, (right to left) vice president; Dona Herr, CEO/Treasurer; and Diane Barnett, Secretary. Debbie Callaghan is in charge of publicity and writes the news articles for the monthly meetings that are held on the first Sunday of the month.
Herr said that council members enjoy this celebration.
“It’s a time to get together and enjoy one another’s company, and to celebrate our heritage,” she said.