Joseph Standing Bear Works for a Better Future for Native Americans by Respecting Values of the Past

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), September 22, 2010 | Go to article overview
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Joseph Standing Bear Works for a Better Future for Native Americans by Respecting Values of the Past

Byline: Susan Dibble

By Susan Dibble

The Grand Entry of the Native American dancers dressed in full ceremonial regalia is always a high point of the Harvest Pow Wow at Naper Settlement.

For Joseph Standing Bear Schranz, founder and president of Midwest SOARRING Foundation, the organization that puts on the event, the moment isnEt just a colorful tribute to a half-forgotten past.

The powwow helps keep alive a culture and values much needed in our present age u values like protecting the environment and respecting all of life, he said.

"I think now, more than ever, weEve got to get back to basics," Schranz said. "Key to native spirituality is the concept of believing whatever we do today, we must not harm the next seven generations."

Traditionally, the powwow celebration brought together nomadic tribes to conduct business and socialize. Today, 20 to 30 different tribes are represented at the Naperville event, Schranz said.

"What I like is it gives people a chance to continue these ways," he said.

The Native Americans not only have a chance to meet with one another, but share their culture with visitors in music, dance, food, crafts and storytelling,

"The children often come and ask the dancers questions," Schranz said.

A very high percentage of Native American men and women serve in the armed forces, and the entry ceremony

honors all military veterans.

"It gives us a venue to still be a warrior and protect this country," Schranz said.

Now in its 16th year, the Harvest Pow Wow is returning to Naperville for the fifth year in a row. The event will be from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 26, at Naper Settlement, 523 S. Webster St., Naperville.

Donna DeFalco, marketing communications coordinator at Naper Settlement, said the powwow is a popular draw.

"ItEs an amazing event," she said. "Joseph Standing Bear, Janet Sevilla (of Midwest SOARRING) and their committee do an outstanding job every year of planning the event that draws thousands of people throughout the area."

A not-for-profit organization, Midwest SOARRING uses admission to the Naperville powwow and an annual powwow it holds in Utica to help pay for causes it supports. They include providing propane to the Pine Ridge Orphanage in South Dakota, maintaining a bison herd, reintroducing native plants, supporting other environmental causes and working to establish a headquarters in Westchester.

Bettering lives

Born in the Chicago area to an Ojibwe mother and German father, Schranz decided as a teenager that he wanted to work to better the lives of Native American peoples.

American Indians have the highest suicide rate of any ethnic group in the country, he said. Unemployment on some reservations reaches 80 percent. Poverty and addictions are common.

"I had an interest in trying to make things better," he said.

Schranz founded Midwest SOARRING, which stands for Save Our Ancestors Remains & Resources Indigenous Network Group, in 1996 to provide education about Native American culture and environmental concerns.

Since then, with a membership that has ranged from 150 to 300, the group has worked in 30 states. Its efforts have helped preserve 1,900 acres of open space that have included sacred sites. Remains of Native Americans that had been held in museums and collections have been privately buried with dignity.

The group has nurtured a herd of bison in Le Roy that now numbers 29. As the numbers grow, Midwest SOARRING will donate pairs of bison to Native American tribes to start their own herds, Schranz said.

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