Updated: Oct 15
When I was 7 years old, my family bought a summer home in Door County, Wisconsin. I spent my summers playing outside, swimming in the chilly Green Bay water, and driving up and down the Peninsula.
A couple miles outside of Egg Harbor, there is a small triangle of roads where County G and County B merge and diverge. In the middle of that triangle there was a statue of Chief Roy J. Oshkosh. Information about the statue says that it was life-sized, but for my seven year old being, it was so much larger than life. This was a regular visit on our journey's around the county.
On the edge of Egg Harbor is the Chief Oshkosh Trading Post. During our first few summers in Door County, we attended the Powwows that Chief Oshkosh staged.
I remember stories, drumming, singing, and a darkness that was pushed away by the light of a fire. At the end of the powwow, honorary Chief Wain-e-sout, Chief Oshkosh's blood brother, would invite all the children up to dance. It was thrilling, joyful, and an incredible shared experience.
Each summer, my sister and I would be given some money to do our own shopping. I loved to find special things at the Outpost. One of my most treasured purchases was an ankle bell. It was made from fluffy wool or cotton, strung with a rusty brown leather string, and had several jingle bells attached along the fluff. It was a touchstone to the powwows, to the learning, and the cultural experience. Time took its toll of the ankle bell, but not on my memory of it.
In 1973, the larger than life sculpture of Chief Oshkosh was stolen and never found again. The small piece of land just outside of Murphy's park remains empty. For those of us who saw the statue on each drive into town, it is a ghostly reminder of a very special Ambassador to Door County and Native culture.
Today a replica statue stands outside Chief Oshkosh Native American Arts which is owned by Coleen Bins. If you are up on the Peninsula, I recommend you stop in.
I give thanks for the gift of attending the Powwows, for being blessed with meeting Chief Oshkosh, and for each encounter with his statue.