About Us

History of Indian Summer


The Indian Summer Festival was the brainchild of a Milwaukee Police Officer and came into being through the hard work of 10-15 people who formed the first Board in 1985.  In the summer of 1985, then Milwaukee Police Officer Lawrence “Butch” Roberts, a member of the Oneida Tribe, was assigned to work at the ethnic festivals at the Henry Maier Festival Park. His experience was very positive and he decided that having a similar festival so that others could better understand the American Indian cultures would be of benefit to both the native and non-native communities.


Friends and family were recruited to the effort and fortunately, both Irish Fest and Festa Italiana lent their expertise and guidance.  The National Indian Youth Council donated our first $500 and fundraisers as well as support from individuals, tribes and Indian organizations raised several more thousands of dollars.


The first festival in 1987 was headlined by comedian Charlie Hill, singers and songwriters Bill Miller and JoAnn Shenandoah.  Also on the list were Bobby Bullet, Kevin Locke, Red Road Country, Flying Tigers and Olympic Gold Medalist, Billy Mills. 


Traditional cultures of natives in North America have and remain an integral part of the festival.  The pow wow, traditional villages, crafters, artists, dancing and singing and cultural demonstrators of the festival show the pride, resilience, and beauty of our native ways.


Throughout the years, the goal of Indian Summer Festival has remained to educate, preserve and promote the history of the American Indian, to celebrate the diversity that exists within many tribal cultures and to create a greater communication and understanding between Indian and non-Indian.  We are committed to presenting our history and culture in a positive and entertaining way.