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2010 Aukiki River Festival 

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Link to pre-Aukiki River Festival webpage

Aukiki Festival brings today into contact with yesterday

August 29, 2010


PLEASANT TWP. -- Perfect Saturday weather, popular historical demonstrations and not too many mosquitoes made the Kankakee Valley Historical Society's third annual Aukiki River Festival the most successful yet.

A sign on the side of the old Collier Lodge building that read HELP SAVE THIS BUILDING greeted festivalgoers with the purpose of the all-day event, the restoration of the last standing hunting club from the days of the Grand Kankakee Marsh.

"Aukiki" is an Indian name for the river. "I'm sure it's bigger than last year. We had over 2,000 people then," said society member Mary Hodson in the last hour.

She wore a vintage 1930's dress and hat with a feather as a Chicago cousin of lodge owner Flora Collier, who was portrayed by Rosie Nelson of Westville.

Jay Gordon, 11, of Valparaiso, was among the throngs of children who were drawn to the hands-on activities, including Native American crafts and games.

She was was all smiles after besting a male competitor in the tomahawk throw. "He said, 'I can't believe a girl beat me,' " she said.

Re-enactors' tents stretched twice as far into the woods along the river as last year.

A special addition this year were members of the 42nd Indiana Volunteer Infantry.

"That's a bullet probe," regimental surgeon Mike Fowler of New Palestine said to a curious visitor inspecting his medical equipment.

"Two-thirds of Americans who died in the Civil War succumbed to diseases, mostly diarrhea and dysentery. The medicine cabinet here is stocked with the 52 drugs used by the Army," he said.

University of Notre Dame anthropologist Mark Schurr drew his own crowd while at work in the three-foot-deep "unit" he and volunteers had dug in July during their seventh summer of excavation at the southeast corner of the lodge.

"We went down one more level today. I think we've got the eastern edge of the cellar of the log cabin. We found some pottery from the 1840's and some brass straight pins, and this looks like burnt plaster," he said, rubbing a powdery substance between his fingers.

The star of the show was John Dillinger's Tommy gun, displayed (but not fired) by Porter County Sheriff David Lain, who motored over to the festival in Jim Lambert's 1934 Ford from the film "Public Enemies" after riding in the Kouts Pork Festival parade.

Aukiki Festival brings history to river valley

By Susan O'Leary Times Correspondent | Posted: Saturday, August 28, 2010 8:15 pm

KOUTS | Lucy, a 10-year-old black Newfoundland , napped in the shade of the trees lining the Kankakee River on Saturday at the third annual Aukiki Festival.

A re-enactor and Lucy's owner, Jude Rakowski explained the importance of dogs in the lives of the Indians who once made the area their home.

"A lot of people have dogs and they are interested in Native Americans, but they may not have made this connection," said Rakowski, of Michigan City .

The annual festival -- named after the American Indian name for the Kankakee River -- highlights the history and culture of the Kankakee River Valley , archeological excavation in the area, and the restoration of the 1898 Collier Lodge at Baum's Bridge south of Kouts.

John Hodson, president of the Kankakee Valley Historical Association that organized the fest, said the event has experienced some growing pains.

"We thought last year was a hit," said Hodson, directing overflow parking after the main lot filled at noon. "I knew we were going to do well. ... but be careful what you wish for."

Hodson said this year's festival expanded to include the Civil War period.

"General Lew Wallace kept a steam launch and a houseboat about 100 yards from here," said Hodson, explaining the Civil War connection.

Seth Nichols, of Lowell , demonstrated blacksmithing, while James Dumas smoked bluegill and venison over a wood fire pit. Mother and daughter team Alice and Cindy Deardoff sold homemade soap and maple sugar candy.

Porter County Sheriff David Lain displayed the 1934 Ford featured in the movie "Public Enemies" and John Dillinger's Tommy gun.

Pam Rymanowicz and James Lay, of Holt , Mich. , stopped at the festival on a camping tour around Lake Michigan .

"I'm looking for cast iron cookware," said Rymanowicz, who heard about the fest after camping at Indiana Dunes State Park .

"It's nice to see a little festival like this," said Lay, who held Jack Russell terriers Jack and Skip and a black lab, Molly, at the end of a leash.



  1. Gus Jones said on: August 28, 2010, 8:34 pm

I took the family out about 2:30 this afternoon and it was ....WONDERFUL! It was kind of like a miniature Feast of the Hunters Moon.

Thanks much and I look forward to spreading the word about it.  


Re-enactment shows how the region's early residents lived

September 13, 2010


A Potawatomi woman placed her belongings on a deerskin hide in front of her wigwam. She prepared to trade beans, gourds, syrup and other items for the clothing and conveniences offered by fur traders who passed through her territory.

This historic re-enactment at Collier Lodge, the site of a continuing archaeological dig, was videotaped by a group that visited the site during the recent Aukiki River Festival, along the Kankakee River south of Kouts. They will be writing documentaries to be compiled into Club Muse Media Magazine, a production of the not-for-profit Family Folklore Foundation. The videotape and magazine will be available to the public this fall.

The fur traders arrived in their birch bark canoes, bringing with them ready-made items from town. They checked their traps for coyote, skunk, fox, raccoon, beaver and other animals whose fur was a commodity on the East Coast.

Darlene Martinez of Hobart studied history in college. She said she is a visual person and enjoyed watching history come alive.

"It's amazing how much work women had to do back then," Martinez said. "It would take an Indian woman two weeks to make a shirt. When they traded with the French, all they had to do was trade for a shirt instead of skinning the hide and everything."

Terry Haas of Kankakee , Ill. , portrayed a French voyageur that day. A black kettle hung from a tripod of branches over the fire near his campsite. He placed his canoe on its side and stretched canvas across it to form a tent. He wore a workman's bonnet, a linen shirt, a black silk scarf, a leather pouch, a knife, leggings and a breechcloth. He carried a drinking cup made of wood to dip into the river.

Steve Leite of Naperville , Ill. portrayed a man who used the Collier site as his hunting grounds. He placed a lead bullet in a patch of cloth and rammed it down the barrel of his flintlock gun. He poured gunpowder from his horn to an area beneath the flint stone to catch the spark when it struck against a metal plate. The resulting explosion propelled the bullet toward its target.

"Soldiers in a battle had to fire three times per minute. A hunter doesn't have those concerns," Leite said. "He's not firing on command; he just has to make an accurate shot. When I aim, I don't have a time limit."

Meg DeMakas is president of the Family Folklore Foundation.

She said the film and magazine should be available around Halloween.

Julie Larson of Highland brought her son, MacKenzie, 12, and sister, Mallory Demoff.

"Last time Dr. Meg had an outing like this, I had such a great time," Larson said. "I liked learning something new about history. I liked learning about the duck hunter and that kind of information that falls through the cracks."