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Oldest pow wow in North America observes its 140th anniversary

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WINNEBAGO, Neb. – The 140th annual Homecoming Celebration of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska will be held this summer at the Veteran’s Memorial Park on U.S. Highway 75 east of Winnebago. The celebration will run July 27 – July 30.

This summer’s pow wow commemorates Chief Little Priest and Company “A” of the Fort Omaha Scouts of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. Little Priest was the last true war chief of the Winnebago people. Little Priest was born in Wisconsin on the tribe’s ancestral lands but became a war chief in 1844 in northeast Iowa, where the tribe had been forced to move to what was then described as “neutral ground” by the U.S. government. The tribe was moved several more times in the coming years.

In 1863, the Winnebago were forced to move again to South Dakota to face virtual starvation at the hands of the U.S. government. Seeing this, Little Priest and some of his followers escaped down the Missouri to the Omaha Reservation in northeast Nebraska. In the summer of 1863, Little Priest and 46 other warriors enlisted in a Nebraska cavalry regiment and fought with Gen. Alfred Sully. In late 1864, Little Priest’s company of Winnebago scouts was assigned to a cavalry regiment out of Fort Omaha. In 1865, the band enlisted in Company A of the Fort Omaha Scouts at Decatur.

Throughout these years, Little Priest and his band fought alongside the cavalry in various battles against the Lakota and other tribes. Little Priest remarked that it hurt him deep in his heart to fight his own brothers, but he wanted to bring peace to his people because he did not want to move again. On Sept. 12, 1866, Little Priest died of wounds received in a battle with the Lakota. He is buried near Winnebago. Ceremonies were held to honor his death and the veterans of Company A, Omaha Scouts, and Nebraska Volunteers.

This year’s homecoming celebration continues that tradition of honoring Little Priest, the Company A Scouts and all veterans who have served our country.

This year, the town of Winnebago also offers visitors a unique tourism experience surrounding the pow wow celebration. The Winnebago Tribe is developing the Ho-Chunk Village, a new multi-use community being built on a 40-acre tract of land in Winnebago. The Ho-Chunk Village development features a blend of residential, commercial, industrial and cultural assets that are providing a brand new community for the tribe.

Visitors will have the opportunity to tour the Honoring the Clans Sculpture Garden, featuring a unique outdoor plaza showcasing the 12 clans of the Winnebago Tribe. Within Ho-Chunk Village, AllNative.com headquarters are located, featuring an unusual array of American Indian and Native-themed merchandise, clothing and gifts.

A national Internet and catalog retailer, AllNative.com is owned by the Winnebago Tribe. AllNative.com offers a wide selection of jewelry, art, home decor and clothing for all ages.

The Winnebago Tribe is also involved in restoring bison to their native grasslands on the reservation. The tribe maintains a herd just across the highway from Ho-Chunk Village, and visitors are able to stop and observe the bison and their calves up close and personal during their visit.

The Winnebago Tribe maintains a new cultural museum in the community honoring past tribal elders, the culture, traditions and history of the tribe’s struggle during the past century. The Winnebago people have been noted for their basket weaving skills. Throughout the summer, the museum will feature an exhibit of baskets made by the Winnebago people. The Winnebago Cultural Center and Museum will be open to the public throughout the homecoming celebration.

South of Winnebago are the rolling hills of the Missouri River Valley, part of the Loess Hills complex that traverses the Missouri River in both Iowa and Nebraska. This short scenic drive on Highway 75 is part of the Lewis and Clark scenic byway that proceeds south to Macy, home of the Omaha Nation, or further on to Omaha.

Just across the river in Iowa, the tribe operates a large casino, restaurant and entertainment complex. Winnavegas Casino operates 20 different table games and just under 700 slot machines, in addition to offering a popular dining destination and regular entertainment during the season. Hotel accommodations are located near the Casino on Interstate 29 at Sloan, Iowa, featuring 53 rooms at the Winnavegas Inn.

Winnebago is located on Highway 77, 20 miles south of Sioux City, Iowa. Visitors can reserve accommodations in addition to the Winnavegas Inn at a variety of hotels and motels located in South Sioux City and in Sioux City, Iowa.

For more information on event details, contact Jerome LaPointe Sr. at (402) 878-3222 Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or visit www.winnebagotribe.com.