Flag Raising Ceremony with No Memorial Day Powwow

By Ardith Van Riper

     May 25, 2020, was unlike any other Memorial Day holiday at the Andrew Blackhawk powwow grounds near Black River Falls.  The Ho-Chunk Nation did not sponsor a powwow due to public health safety concerns amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.  However, the Andrew Blackhawk Legion Post 129 organized a Flag Raising Ceremony.

     The annual Memorial Day Powwow typically runs all weekend and includes a powwow, craft vendors, food vendors, camping, and several meals offered by the powwow committee.  The public is usually invited with free admission.  Weeks of preparations for the gathering usually takes place.

     This year, the grass was overgrown, and insects invaded the grounds.  Nearly all the vendor stands were unattended, the arena was almost empty, and one drum group occupied the drum pit.  There were no speakers to amplify announcements made by the emcee. 

     Instead, a fire was started, and a prayer was offered.  Flag registration began at 8:00 AM near the Legion Post Building.  Post Commander Donald Greengrass yelled a welcome speech around 9:30 AM. 

     Emcee Matt Mann requested veterans to report to their assigned flag poles a little before 10:30 AM.  Pierre Decorah, Jr. fanned off each veteran and the flags.  The drum group rendered a song, and flags were raised to the top of the flagpole and lowered to half-mast. 

     Food was shared with the reduced number of veterans who showed up.  Eileen Blackdeer provided green bean dumpling soup.  Pierre Decorah, Jr. supplied sandwiches and three cases of water. Margaret Garvin furnished coffee.

     Dave Erickson, from La Crosse, Wisconsin, performed a fly-by in a T-28 Trojan used during the Korean conflict and Vietnam.

     The number of flags outnumbered the number of veterans present, and several veterans had to help others.  In some cases, families offered a helping hand.

     The registered flags raised were in honor of: Andrew Blackhawk, USA (WWI); Anna Rae Funmaker, USAF; Gordon Snowball, USA; Gary Funmaker Sr., USN; Rex Whitegull, USMC; Walter Funmaker, USMC; John R. Snake, USN; Clifford Blackdeer, USA (WWII); Alfred Stacy, USA; Murice Stacy, USA; George Stacy, Sr., USA; Nathan Bird, USA (WWI); Harold Blackdeer, Jr., USMC (WWII); George Miner, USA; Donald Isaac Greengrass, USA (Code Talker, WWII); Arnold Funmaker, USAF (Vietnam); Raymond Thundercloud, USA (Vietnam); Randall Blackdeer, USA; Conrad Dick; John Paul Jones; and the Post 129 Unknown Soldier.

     “There may have been a couple of flags that didn’t register,” Post Commander Donald Greengrass stated. “Ron Anwash counted 24 flags.”