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Aukiki River Festival


Go here to view video of 2008 Aukiki River Festival

August 22, 2009

Aukiki River Festival celebrates the Kankakee River

Step back in time Aug. 22

HEATHER AUGUSTYN - Times Correspondent |

 Posted: Saturday, August 15, 2009 12:00 am

KOUTS | American Indians, fur traders, hunters and the rich and famous emerge from the past to celebrate the one thing they all had in common -- the Kankakee River.

The re-enactors are some 40 to 50 volunteers from the Kankakee Valley Historical Society which sponsors the second annual Aukiki River Festival from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 22 at Collier Lodge, 1101 S. Baum's Bridge Road in Kouts.

John Hodson, president of the KVHS, said the festival, named after an American Indian word for Kankakee , is a way to celebrate all of the ages of the river, from the mid-1770s through the 1930s.

"We focus on the Native Americans, fur traders, voyageurs, up to the hunters in the 1930s. We have a blacksmith, storytelling, and two bands playing French voyageur music," Hodson said.

The aim is to educate participants on the many phases of the river and the cultures that thrived in the region in south Porter County due to the presence of the Kankakee, evidence of which has been literally uncovered by the KVHS over the past few years at the Collier Lodge site.

"We'll have an archeologist on site, Mark Schurr from Notre Dame, who will be performing work on site and will answer questions about his work," Hodson said.

The Aukiki River Festival is on the same day as the Kouts Pork Fest and customer appreciation day at Baums Bridge Inn, a strategic plan to get more involvement in the south county.

"We want to get people involved in all of the great cultural events in south Porter County so they can spend the whole day at all of our different venues. The Porter County Convention Recreation and Visitor Commission doubled our grant for our festival and showed a lot of support for this part of the county," Hodson said.

They hope to increase attendance from last year, which was 700 attendees. Food vendors, kids activities and crafts, and lessons in cooking, gardening, pottery making and weaving round out the day.

For more information, visit www.kankakeevalleyhistoricalsociety.org or call (219) 766-2302

  Our Hunting Heritage

By Garry Burch

Ducks filled the sky to the point it darkened the sunlight much like a dark cloud moving over the land. Ducks, Geese, Cranes and other waterfowl were everywhere. That is how my grandfather described the Kankakee River area when he was a young boy in the late 1800’s. I was able to ask that question in the early 60’s shortly before my Grandfather passed away. It was a question I had to know about. I often dreamed of the river and how it was once a wilderness filled with stories of the good and the bad. But as a young boy interested in hunting I dreamed of how it once was before the white man changed the marshlands forever.

Huge populations of waterfowl made the Kankakee River bottom home on their migrations south for the winter and a refuge for the trip back north, the marsh also offered fantastic fishing for pickerel, walleye and pike and bass.

Opportunities for hunting were many if you knew your way around the vast marshland. For those that didn’t know their way, a guide was usually hired to get the hunters into the good hunting spots. Getting there was work in its self. A wooden boat filled with hunter, guide and gear was usually poled down one of the feeder streams deep into the marsh.

Early hunting on the marsh was usually for substance or money. Game that was bagged was eaten later at home or salted and shipped to Chicago to the restaurants there. It was well before anyone ever thought of conservation so the hunting was from usually October until April.

After word spread about the marshlands abundance of game, market hunters as well as sportsman from the east soon made their way to Indiana ’s Grand Marsh. Many of the eastern hunters soon formed clubs and bought land in the area and secured hunting rights for their own members.

 Most of the hunters came by rail to the nearest city. From there they secured a place to stay or if they were a club member they made their way to the club house where food, bed and boats waited. Their thoughts were on seeing and hunting the huge flocks of waterfowl that seemed to be endless in numbers. Guns that were first on the marsh were the flintlock fowler type guns and that soon changed to the percussion guns.

Later it was the hand-loaded, brass shelled black powder cartridge shotgun that ruled the marsh. It was a single barreled gun and if you had the money of the eastern men you had the latest double barreled shotguns of 8ga., 10 ga., or 12 ga. With black powder it was the bigger the shotgun the better.

The hunting clubs of the times provided great access into the marsh something only the locals enjoyed until the clubs came. But change was not all that bad as the clubs provided jobs for the locals that knew the marsh well. Even with taking clients out in the marsh, many guides still had their own secret places just for themselves.

Of the many clubs that sprang up along the marsh, Colliers lodge was one that provided lodging and access as well as a bridged crossing over the river to the other side. The Colliers lodge site was also well known by the early natives that called the marsh home. It was located at the narrowest point river where a crossing was possible.

Today the Colliers lodge still stands and an organized effort to save this important part of our history and hunting heritage is underway. The site is also a recognized archeological site and digs are on going at the ancient river crossing. Indian artifacts as well as more modern artifacts from the hunting days like brass shotgun shells are and pottery being uncovered.

Professor Mark Shurr from Notre Dame University is in charge of the archeological dig. Many volunteers have helped in the digs recovery efforts. This dig has turned into an exciting and popular summer attraction to the site. Many have signed up as members to help and learn the fundamentals of archeology.

For information about the Colliers Lodge you can contact the Historical society at this web site. www.kankakeevalleyhistoricalsociety.org

On the website you can also read about the long ago history and hunting stories of the area when it was still a vast marsh wilderness. If you or a club you belong too would like to contribute funds to this important cause you can also contact the Kankakee valley Historical Society through this website.

Reading many of the hunting stories of that long lost time makes me dream of what it must have been like to have this wilderness right at your doorstep. At the Collier lodge site they try to bring back that piece of history at a small gathering called the Aukiki Festival. This years date is August 22nd 2009.

I took the time to visit this festival last year and found it to be very interesting. Many groups were represented there. American Indians, trappers, old duck hunters, combined with a few mountain men and historical collectors all added to a education of what early Kankakee River life must have been.

One gentleman had an old black powder double-barreled 10 ga. shotgun that was once king of the marsh on the rivers backwaters. He educated many on the early duck hunting equipment and how the ammo was reloaded by hand. The reloading of the shotgun shells was a past time for many hunters when they were preparing for a long day on the marsh. Keeping their powder dry was also a challenge for the hunters.

Some people showed examples of what early native Indian life was like on the marsh. Others gathered were the likes of early trappers that worked and explored the marshlands of the Kankakee River area. Early life on the river was hard work and harsh on the ones trying to live there.

The archeological dig was also active when the festival was going on and you could see the work being done. Professor Mark Shurr (the one I called our own Indiana Jones which he denied) was there and explained the processes going on during the dig and showed some of the real artifacts they uncovered. One looks with amazement at the Indiana artifacts found because at one time in early history before the white-man came to this land a Native American held that arrow-head in his hand for trade or shot it from his hand made bow in an attempt for food. It’s a real look at a time long ago.

This years 2009 dig will be July 6th –July 23rd. If your interested in being a member and helping out you can contact the society through the website.

Coming from a family whose heritage was lived on the Kankakee marshland, the rivers history still has its own lure to me. Plan on attending this years events and please help save the Colliers Lodge its an important part of our early American hunting and fishing heritage.

My thanks to all those who allowed me to photograph them and share there piece history with the many who read this article. Keep up the great work.


  Celebration steps back in time

Times Correspondent
| Sunday, August 24, 2008

PLEASANT TOWNSHIP | Dressed as a Potawatomi woman, Cindy Deardorff, of Wheatfield, stirred a clay pot of buffalo stew, with beans, onions and garlic, over an open flame. Wood smoke filled the air, with the sound of crickets, as the lazy Kankakee River drifted by.

Other re-enactors -- 19th century fur trappers, French voyageurs, and Native Americans -- demonstrated life as it was on the Kankakee River at the first Aukiki River Festival, hosted by the Kankakee Valley Historical Society on Saturday.

"Aukiki is the Indian word for (the Kankakee ) river," said Debra Dubovich, a society board member.

The society, which is striving to restore the 1898 Collier Lodge at Baum's Bridge on the river's bank, promotes an interest in the history and culture of the Kankakee River Valley area with educational programs, research and archaeological excavation.

Mark and Diane Saunders, of Lowell , relaxed on a picnic table under the trees while listening to the banjos and fiddles of the Oxcart Ramblers.

"We enjoy this type of festival," Mark Saunders said. "The smoke, the smells -- and it's in a beautiful location."

John Hodson, historical society president, said the Aukiki Festival highlights the need to preserve Kankakee River Valley history.

"We've been around now for six years, so people know who we are" Hodson said. "We wanted to have a festival of our own to get people down here and see the building and what we're trying to accomplish."

The lodge, which served as recreational family resort in the 1800s, would be a museum and public meeting place, Hodson said.

"We see this as a center to tell the whole story here," he said of the lodge, local wildlife and 150 acres of woods and riverfront. Hodson said the festival was planned for the same day as the Kouts Pork Festival and the Baum's Bridge Inn customer appreciation day.

"We want to develop this into people coming down to southern Porter County to see a variety of events," Hodson said. "This area is named Pleasant Township for a reason -- because it is pleasant. Yes, the Dunes is beautiful, but we also have our own beauty here, too."

Aukiki River Festival

  by Charles M. Bartholomew

Post-Tribune Correspondent

PLEASANT TOWNSHIP – The black bear, mountain lion, and bobcat that once roamed the Grand Kankakee Marsh returned to their old haunts Saturday, put on display by a big game hunter who shared his hobby with several hundred visitors to the inaugural Aukiki (“River”) Festival, staged by the Kankakee Valley Historical Society on their grounds at the Collier Lodge next to Baum’s Bridge.

Also part of the exhibit from the trophy room of real estate developer Ben Houser , a KVHS member and volunteer, were a deer, fox, and pheasant, all still denizens of the area that was once one of the world’s great hunting grounds and home to dozens of hunting clubs.

“I’ve hunted all over the world, South America, Africa, Alaska , Canada ,” said Houser, whose wife Debbie has participated in all six of the summer excavations that have caught the attention of amateur archaeologists around the world.

A sign at the parking lot entrance re-stated KVHS president John Hodson’s reason for inviting the public to come sample the rich, deep history of the land that stretches back thousands of years and covers Native Americans, French fur trappers and explorers, pioneers and early settlers, farmers, and the coming of modern industry.

Ever since buying the abandoned lodge, last of its kind still standing, Hodson’s dream has been to restore the deteriorating building and property into a museum and history center.

“The festival page on our website has been getting a lot of hits.  I’m not sure why, but some of them have been coming from Russia , Sweden , and Hong Kong ,” Hodson said.

 Notre Dame anthropologist Mark Schurr , who has supervised the annual dig under contract to KVHS, was on hand to show off one of this year’s three-foot-deep excavation “units” containing part of the wall of the “megastructure,” the focus of this year’s investigation.  He thinks it’s part of a log cabin built around 1840, when the river crossing was known as Eaton’s Ferry.

Trying his hand at pounding corn with a blunt stick in an upright hollow stump at the Native American exhibit was Skyler Byvoets{cq}, 11, of Valparaiso , spending the day attending both Kouts area festivals on Saturday with a large family group.

“We were over at the Porkfest earlier.  We’ve been doing all the festivals,” said Dan Smaga, Skyler’s uncle.  He said they’re planning to attend the Harvest Festival at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in the fall.




Participant List

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 List of activities and demonstrators  

Susan and Gary Brown

More information about Susan and Gary Brown

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Listen to Susan and Gary


Quilting Party

Trios Canards

more information about Trios Canards

Listen to Trois Canards

Le Vent Frivolent

Ah Si Mon Moine


Dr. Mark Schurr will have a 2009 Collier Lodge dig excavation unit open for public viewing. 

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As seen in Public Enemies.  Jim Lambert and his 1934 Ford 

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Ogden's  Company of Rogers' Rangers and Young's Rangers  

website link

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Bill Paulus model steam engine exhibit

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Keith Ryder- Early trap & skeet demonstration

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The Kankakee Alliance French Voyager encampment

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Cindy Deardorff & Judy Judge - Native-American encampment

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Ruth Bicknese Native-American flute demonstration

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Wayne & Peter Fritz-Fur Trapper encampment

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Aukiki River Festival participant page