Indian Summer Festival, North America’s largest American Indian festival, celebrates the theme “Stories to Tell” and the importance of storytellers at Milwaukee’s lakefront Maier Festival Park (Summerfest grounds) from Sept. 7-9. The festival provides an entertaining, fun and educational experience with American Indian traditions joined by exciting contemporary features.
Brule returns with their powerful music, stunning showmanship and a cadre of traditional and fancy dancers. Village Recreations by Wisconsin tribes educate about Native American cultures in a hands-on way.
Apache Crown Dancers bring excitement to Indian Summer Festival for the first time. Also new this year are canoe rides. The canoes are 24-feet-long, accommodate ten riders, and will take riders from the launching point on the north end of Lakeshore State Park. Rides will be available Saturday and Sunday until dusk. RandyMan, wildlife biologist and naturalist who specializes in reptiles and amphibians native to Wisconsin, brings a special show to Indian Summer Festival this year. Festival goers will learn the difference between these two distinct groups, and each performance includes a Question and Answer session, with many species on display all weekend.
The exhibition Native Words, Native Warriors tells the remarkable story of Indian soldiers from more than a dozen tribes who used their Native languages in the service of the U.S. military. The exhibition was developed by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.
Other must-see events include the 9th Annual Indian Summer Music Awards (ISMA) that draw some of the best American Indian entertainment from alternative rock to traditional drum and hip hop to flute. The Competition Pow Wow brings unforgettable sights and sounds to the festival with Grand Entry times at 7 p.m. Friday, 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday. The crowd pleaser Go Native Now Presents – Once Upon A Time (led by Little Big Mountain) explores the contrast between the tribes of the east and those of the west in a lively, interactive format, with Laura Alcorn adding a female perspective.
A spectacular fireworks display will be held Friday and Saturday evenings featuring the grand Torch-lit Canoe Procession. Contests that bring crowds to their feet include Indian Summer’s wild (and wildly popular) Fiddle & Jig contest. The action of lacrosse and Chumash draw fans of all ages to the demos at the Miller Lite Stage and the tournament held in Urban Park just north of the Summerfest grounds.
Entertainment includes contemporary performers Scott Berendt and the US Project Featuring Tommy Graywolf, Wade Fernandez, Michael Jacobs, Morgan Creek Band, Big Snake Band, Jamie Brace, John Welch Band, Candice Nokes, Jon Wheelock, Richie Plass with the Indian Summer All-Star Band and many more.
Native writers and storytellers attending the 20th Anniversary Returning the Gift Writers Conference, themed “A Gathering of Words at the Gathering of Waters” at UW-Milwaukee will bring their talent to Indian Summer Festival. This programming will include storytelling, readings, poetry slams and more. The conference is presented Sept. 5-9 by “The Yukhika-latuhse Journal,” an all-Native American literary journal published by Oneida Nation Arts Program.
Eating is entertainment at summer festivals, and the options here include traditional fare such as Indian tacos, buffalo, venison, turkey, wild rice, corn soup and fry bread with a variety of toppings. “Fun food” finders will discover hot dogs, chili, popcorn, ice cream and much more.
A Children’s Fashion Show with Native America designer Leann Hascon will be held at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday. The Natural Path offers an array of products and opportunities for relaxing massages. The Gathering Place shelters non-profit organizations with Native ties, the Mohican Nation Stockbridge-Munsee gathering area, Veterans Center and displays on historic repatriation.
The Circle of Fine Art exhibition displays fine art with American Indian themes, with many of the country’s best-known American Indian artists displaying works for viewing and for purchase. The Indian Summer Marketplace is one of the most popular areas at the festival. Vendors from throughout the U.S. and Canada offer an array of Native American-inspired crafts, artwork, books, music, pottery, regalia accessories, blankets, jewelry, toys and beads.
The festival is truly family-friendly, since part of the festival grounds are designated a traditional area, where alcohol is not allowed for sale or consumption. Education Day is held on Friday prior to the official opening at 4 p.m. The grounds are only open to school children and their teachers to provide them with a greater understanding of American Indian culture and heritage. Registration is available now.
There are special admission deals for the festival.
Friday, Sept. 7: Free from 4 to 6 p.m., anyone who donates school supplies to be collected by the Milwaukee Indian Education Committee. Sponsored by North Star Mohican Casino. AND free Friday from 4 p.m.-midnight for PANTHERFEST ticket holders.
Sunday, Sept. 9: Free to participants in Dylan's 5K Run & Walk for Autism with 2011 Run & Walk t-shirt. Sign up with the Autism Society of Southeastern Wisconsin at 414-427-9345 or visit email@example.com. Free admission from 9:30 to 10 a.m., those attending the 10 a.m. non-denominational Indian Summer Prayer Ceremony.
Regular festival hours are 4 p.m. to midnight Friday, noon to midnight Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Ticket prices are $10 (advance), $13 (gate) for adults and children 12 and under are free. Seniors age 60+ will be admitted for $10 at the gate. The Indian Summer office is located at 10809 W. Lincoln Ave., Suite #101, West Allis, WI 53227. For more information, phone 414-604-1000 and visit www.indiansummer.org to follow on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.
Principal Sponsor is the Forest County Potawatomi Foundation. Title Sponsors are North Star Mohican Casino Resort and the Stockbridge Munsee Community, Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin, MillerCoors, Looking Glass Productions, Sonsee Array Creative and Lanex.