Indiana Bicentennial Legacy Project

New Demonstration Village
to feature cultural experience

Miami Indians, Ojibwe dancers, blacksmith to appear

(September 2016) – Those attending this year’s Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art are in for a treat when they visit a new feature, the Demonstration Village. Recognized as an Indiana Bicentennial Legacy Project, the Demonstration village will be located in the parking lot just south of the Lanier-Madison Visitors Center on Vine Street and “feature art throughout the history of the state’s legacy,” said Jenny Straub, 40, co-coordinator with Amy Fischmer of the 2016 Madison Chautauqua.
“Visitors will see woodcarvers, blacksmiths, Native American crafts by the Miami tribe and performances by the Ojibwe dancers,” Straub said. “We have so much planned for this year’s Madison Chautauqua it will take you the entire weekend to see and experience everything.”

Photo provided

Chante Falcon is among the Ojibwe dancers who will perform.

Florence Tigler of Wabash, Ind., and her family will provide a living history of the life of the Miami Indians during the 1800s. The Miami, originally from Indiana, were relocated to Kansas and Oklahoma. Only those families fortunate to own their land were allowed to stay in Indiana.
Visitors will see demonstrations on the use of a mortar and pestle to grind corn, finger weaving, fire cooking and bead work. There will also be an opportunity to tour a wig-wham.
“Wig-whams differ from tee-pees in several ways,” Tigler explained. “Indigenous to the eastern woodland, where they were often limited in space, wig-whams are smaller than the tee-pees found in the western states. They are made of willow, saplings, cattails, bark and furs.”
Once the French fur traders began to arrive, they bartered the sails from their ships, which were used to enclose the tops of the wig-wham.
Tigler and her brother, Vince Knauff, 51, are following in their parents’ footsteps, traveling the Midwest to share the Miami history. A family affair, they are joined by Vince’s wife, Jean, and Tigler’s daughters Mindy, 26, and Erin, 24.
The Beyond the Circle Dancers, led by Valerie and Randy Falcon of Springfield, Mo., are members of the Ojibwe Tribe, which will perform traditional Pow-Wow dances. A Pow-Wow is a social gathering held by many different Native American communities. It combines singing, music and dance to share stories. 
The Falcons met in 1992 in Las Vegas, where she was a dancer and he was a singer. Later, when their children started school, they began to realize that many children in America believe that there are no real Native Americans; that all of them are dead. “It was then that we decided that we needed to share our heritage,” explained Valerie.
Traveling the country as a family, the Falcons share the story of the dances, their costumes and the instruments used during the performances, drums and flutes. Randy serves as narrator, singer and plays the drums. Valerie, her daughters, Chante, 21, Cholena, 8, Nizhoni, 5, and her nephew Cory, 25, are the dancers.

Photo courtesy of John Steppe

John Steppe will share the art of blacksmithing as part of the Demonstration Village at this year’s Chautauqua.

“We enjoy sharing our history and encourage questions. Sometimes people are hesitant to approach us when we are in our street clothes. What we do is not just a performance, it is our legacy, so please, ask questions,” added Valerie.
John Steppe, 53, was introduced to ironwork by a friend in 1999. Since that time, what started as a hobby has turned in to a full-time profession as a blacksmith. One of the founding members of the Wabash Valley Blacksmith Shoppe, Steppe started the Cool Creek Forge in 2005. He was awarded the Blacksmith of the Year award from the Indiana Blacksmith Association for his work with 4-H Blacksmithing youth, which he has been working with since 2004.
“People think blacksmithing is a dying craft, but that is far from the truth,” said Steppe, a resident of Prairie Creek, Ind.
There are national and international blacksmith associations, as well as the Indiana Blacksmithing Association with more than 1,000 members.
“The majority of blacksmiths today are focused on artwork. I focus on the tools and materials of Civil War re-enactments,” said Steppe. He also accepts custom assignments with the motto “If you can draw it, I can make it.”
Under the Cool Creek Forge name, Steppe conducts demonstrations throughout Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Michigan and Ohio, attending up to 20 Civil War re-enactments a year.  Setting up camp and dressing in clothing of the Civil War period, Steppe crafts on site the tools needed for cooking, camping and even battle.
During the stop in Madison, Steppe will replicate the traditional blacksmith shop from the 1860s, right down to the canvas tent.  He will share information on the craft itself and the tools and their uses.
Steppe said he likes to make his demonstrations interactive and allows interested adults or children with an accompanying adult to try their hand at the trade.

Check signage at Madison Chautauqua’s Demonstration Village for performance times.

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