What is the National Gathering?

Veteran LogoThe National Gathering of American Indian Veterans is a yearly event held in the summer at Cantigny Park in Wheaton, Illinois. This three day weekend event honors veterans and military personnel of all cultures, eras, and branches in a Native American style. Guests can come to participate in special panels lead by veterans and veterans service providers on topics ranging from traditional health and wellness, working with the VA, jobs and economic development for veterans after service, and more. Each year features unique performances and entertainment, as well as cultural vendors and artists. This event is free and open to the public, and to anyone who would like to join us in honoring all those in the United States military.

How did the National Gathering start?

The first of the now annual National Gathering event was held in August of 2015 at Cantigny Park in Wheaton, IL. Native Veterans of Illinois, a group of multi-tribal veterans, saw a need and decided to plan a gathering comprised of reservation and urban Indian veterans to share their stories, needs, views on healing and spirituality, wounded warriors and outreach, participate in discussions on cultural wellness, and other issues relevant to American Indian veterans. Joe Podlasek, the son of a Korean war veteran and CEO of the Trickster Art Gallery, was asked to spearhead this effort on behalf of our veterans. This was done with the strong support of the McCormick Foundation, as well as the original people of these lands and the first tribe to support this unique event, the Pokagon Band of Pottawatomie. With that, the National Gathering was born.

Native people historically have the highest percentage per capita of serving in the US military: at an estimated that 22%, a higher percentage than any other race of people in the US. Despite this, less than .01 % of funds supports Native Veterans nationally. The National Gathering gives veterans a chance to connect with Native veterans from around the country, policy makers, military officials and service providers to express their needs directly, as well as to network, connect with, and create lasting friendships with other veterans, both Native and non-Native.

2017 National Gathering: July 21st – July 23rd

Event Summary: Click on the interactive flipbook report below to see the statistics around the 2017 National Gathering. Also below is a link to an article about the National Gathering from the Daily Herald, a description of the order of events, and a PSA and photo slideshow.

The event began on Friday evening with a free traditional dinner for veterans and their families served at Cantigny Park. Key speakers spoke throughout the dinner about their role at the event, and introduced themselves for the workshops panels to come.

Saturday began with a formal Grand Entry of our veterans and their eagle staffs, and continued with town hall discussions on veterans issues. Later in the afternoon, General Jackson of the Pentagon Vietnam Commemorative Committee pinned each Vietnam veteran and welcomed them home on behalf of the United States. WII Code Talker Alfred Newman and WWII D-Day survivor Charles Norman Shay then shared their stories. There was a dinner and powwow style dance with our veterans, and then the retiring of the colors and closing.

Sunday began with another formal Grand Entry of our veterans and eagle staffs, and a a review of the previous day’s workshops was made. The colors and flags were then retired at noon, after which many of our veterans convened at Trickster Art Gallery for lunch and music.

2016 National Gathering: August 19th – August 21st

Event Summary: Click on the interactive flipbook report below to see the statistics around the 2016 National Gathering. Also below is a video PSA for the event, and a slideshow of pictures from the weekend.

2015 National Gathering: August 28th – August 30th

Event Summary: Read the interactive flipbook report below to see the statistics around the 2015 National Gathering. Also below is a video PSA for the event, and a slideshow of pictures from the weekend.

Documentaries from the National Gathering

Each year, Trickster has produced a documentary utilizing the interviews and footage gathered from the National Gathering and from interactions with veterans year round. Each can be viewed online by clicking the pictures below. If you are interested in owning the documentary and seeing additional special features, you can purchase them through our online store.