Our community, our culture: Sisseton Wahpeton celebrates

Published in Native Sun News in 2011. For more on topics like this, see my book, American Apartheid: The Native American Struggle....

At the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate’s recent Summer Bash, artist and tribal member Fred Kohl, shown left, displayed his 930-pound steel-plate sculpture, depicting a white buffalo on one side and a snarling bear on the other. Kohl, who also creates chain-saw and rock-and-concrete sculptures, intends to create more steel pieces in a variety of sizes. “Future works will not necessarily require a forklift to move!” he said. 

Kohl also recalled a living bear’s reaction to the buffalo-bear statue. “It came walking up, took one look at the growling-bear head, snorted, shook itself, and ran off,” he said. “That was awesome!”

Held on the grounds of what was the notorious Catholic Church-run Tekakwitha Orphanage (now demolished by the tribe), the Sisseton Wahpeton Summer Bash featured games, door prizes, food, health booths, music deejayed by Tom Wilson of SWO’s station KXSW, and a table for the Tribal Historic Preservation Office, where Tamara St. John, shown right wearing a green top, helped children with culture-oriented activities. The day-long event delivered on its promise of “fun in the sun” for hundreds of attendees, including lots of happy children. 

Said St. John, “The festival is a way to show our children what good care of them we take today and how much their community supports them.” 

Text and photographs c. Stephanie Woodard.

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