MAYETTA, Kan. — Veterans hold a special place of honor among the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation of Kansas. In the Potawatomi language, a veteran is known as a “We-Ta-Se” or brave warrior.
The names of 357 tribal members who served in the armed forces from World War I to Iraq are inscribed on the Veterans Memorial Wall in Prairie People’s Park as an enduring tribute.
About 500 members of the Potawatomi, Kickapoo and other tribes are expected to honor their warriors with dancing, singing and a traditional meal during the 11th annual We-Ta-Se Veteran’s Pow wow, Nov. 15 at the 4-H Building in Holton, Kansas. The event is hosted by the We-Ta-Se American Legion Post 410 located on the Potawatomi Reservation near Mayetta.
The We-Ta-Se American Legion Post 410 was formed in 1989 to provide proper, full military burials for Prairie Band Potawatomi veterans. The We-Ta-Se Color Guard also performs at approximately 45 events annually in Kansas and across the country. Current membership is 88 members and 50 life members, according to the Post’s Web site.
Francis Shopteese, a veteran and officer in the Post, said the pow wow will have vendors, exhibit dancers and limited contests.
“It’s mainly about honoring veterans,” Shopteese said.
One of this year’s honored veterans will be Jessica Wishkeno, 23. In a telephone interview, Wishkeno, a Kickapoo-Potawatomi, said she enlisted in the U.S. Army after graduating from Kickapoo Nation High School. Wishkeno said her grandparents, Eugene and Rose Masquat, both served in the Marines.
“It’s just something I always wanted to do,” she said.
Wishkeno, an ammunitions specialist, is proud of her service, but humble about the attention it has brought her.
“I got lucky,” she said. “I never had to deploy. There are other women out there who are overseas right now.”
Wishkeno said the people she met were the most rewarding aspect of serving in the military.
“We’re like family,” she said. “We’re all there for each other.”
Wishkeno said homesickness was one of the most difficult mental challenges she faced while serving. “The physical part was easy,” she said.
“I would do it again,” Wishkeno added.
Wishkeno currently works in the Kickapoo Nation Head Start program and is mulling over plans to attend college to pursue a career as an elementary teacher.
Grand entry for this year’s pow wow will be at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Host Drum will be Little Soldier. Master of Ceremonies will be Dean Whitebreast, Meskwaki. Head dancers are Tony Wahweotten and Diane Payne. All dancers in regalia by 3 p.m. will receive an honorarium.
Shopteese said attendance at the annual event has grown over the years. “There’s a lot of open dancing to honor veterans.”
A traditional supper featuring corn soup and buffalo will be provided by the Native American Church at 5 p.m. Shopteese said pow wow organizers served supper to 600 people at last year’s event. “We’ve outgrown the building.”
For more information, contact Francis Shopteese at (785) 966-2580.