Archive | April, 2010

American Indian Dance

30 Apr

With the Performance Circle Dance Class Graduation around the corner, (May 4 from 6-7pm) it is fitting that we take a look at different forms of American Indian Dance.


Traditional dance is the oldest form of dance for men and women. The men’s traditional dance tells the story of creation, combat, and hunting. The women’s traditional dance honors the connection women share with mother earth. Women traditional dancers are called the “backbone of our nation”.

Men’s Grass Dance

Men’s Grass & Women’s Jingle

Long ago, men’s grass dancers were responsible for preparing a ceremonial clearing through dance. This form of dance represents the movement of blowing grass. The women’s jingle dress was born from a young Ojibwe woman’s dream to heal her people. There are 365 tin or copper cones attached to the dress that represent each day of the year. Each cone is filled with a prayer, and as the cones “dance,” the prayers are released.

Women's Jingle Dance

Men’s Fancy Feather & Women’s Fancy Shawl

Men’s fancy feather dancers are dressed in two multi-colored feather bustles around their neck and waste. Fancy dancers will amaze you with their high jumps, spins, and fancy footwork. Women’s Fancy Shawl, also called the “Butterfly Dance,” began in the mid 20th century. Women are dressed in intricate beadwork and matching shawls that create beauty in motion as these dancers perform dazzling footwork and spins.

Social and Hoop Dancing

 The hoop dance creates and brings to life unique symbols and designs of nature, such as flowers, trees, animals, and birds. This style of dance visually shows our connection with the earth and all living things. Social dances bring together people from all walks of life. The Two-Step or Rabbit Dance is a dance for couples. The Crow Hop honors the crow and the work it does to keep Mother Earth clean. Inter-Tribal dancing is an opportunity to try the different styles of men or women’s dance.

The Performance Circle Graduation will take place on May 4 from 6-7pm. Students who have been participating since January will perform at the Broadway Theatre, 216 E. Broadway, Mt. Pleasant, MI 48858. This event is free and open to the public. A reception will follow the performance. If you are interested in signing your child up for the Performance Circle class, please contact Yvette at (989) 775-4738.

Also, American Indian Dance presentations will be offered every Saturday in July at 12pm, 2pm and 4pm in the Ziibiwing Center Lobby. Please contact the Sales & Events Coordinator for more information. (989) 775-4744

Hoop Dance

Attention American Indian Artists

19 Apr

8th Indigenous Peoples Art Market

 Hosted by Ziibiwing Center & Exclusive Sponsor Charles Schwab & Co., Inc.


Art Market is an American Indian Juried Art Show showcasing Indigenous artwork, demonstrations, music & dance exhibitions, and more. There is over $16,000 in prize money with $5,000 awarded to the Best of Show. 

Art Market will commence on October 1 with a special invitation only V.I.P. Preview. The Art Market is FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC October 2 from 11am-9pm and October 3 from 11am-3pm. Nowhere else in Michigan will you have the opportunity to purchase artwork from such a diverse gathering of the most renowned North American Indian artisans. 

Mark Fischer

American Indian Artists:

To be eligible for the 8th Indigenous Peoples Art Market, the applicant must meet the following requirements:

1. The applicant must present documentation that he/she is an enrolled member of an American Indian federally-recognized tribe or Canadian First Nation; or

2. The applicant must present documentation of at least 1/4 degree of North American Indian blood from either the Bureau of Indian Affairs or the Department of Indian Affairs.

All submitted papers must be official documents of applicant’s tribe/nation/agency/band. The Ziibiwing Center will verify all applications.

Please visit Ziibiwing’s Official Website for more details on Art Market or for an Artist Application:

*Please note: Application Deadline is July 2, 2010 

For questions please contact the Sales and Events Coordinator at (989) 775-4744 or

Dolores Purdy Corcoran

American Indian Maple Syrup Harvesting Tradition

2 Apr

Maple sugar is likely the oldest agricultural product in North America.  The Anishinabek have been gathering for many generations to make maple sugar during the time of the year when boon (winter) gives way to mnookimi (spring).

The warm days that follow the winter cold trigger the process when sugar maple trees produce sap.  The duration of the sugaring season and the amount of sap that the trees will produce depends on many factors. However, it seems that cold nights accompanied with warm days make the sap run well.

The Anishinabek moved from their winter lodges to make camp in the stand of maple trees called ziisibaakodokaaning (sugarbush) in early spring when the maple trees started to run with sap.

Boon (winter) was often a lean time for the Anishinabek, so sugar making was a time of celebration. Families reunited and welcomed the coming of warmer weather by gathering what they needed to survive throughout the year. Maple sugar was an important part of the Anishinabe diet. It provided a healthy source of energy and a delicious sweetener for foods. Many products made from maple sap were used to flavor a diet of wild rice, venison, bear, and moose meat. Maple syrup was also an important trade item.

Making sugar and syrup from the sap required hard work and skill. The Anishinabek tradition of harvesting maple syrup usually involved a large extended family. Hundreds of wiigwaas (birchbark) containers had to be constructed for sap collecting and maple sugar/syrup storage.  During sugar making, a fire would burn for many days, so a stockpile of wood had to be gathered for these fires.  Mitigonaagan (large trench-like bowls) had to be carved out of logs.  These bowls were used to work the syrup into granulated sugar. The sap was carefully boiled in these bowls on a huge piece of slate or flat rocks. 


The knowledge that was passed down through the generations was essential to producing good sugar and syrup.  It is not as simple as boiling the sap down. Sap had to be strained and initially warmed before being cycled through a series of boiling containers; eventually being transformed into syrup or sugar.  If the process was not done correctly, the whole batch could be ruined.

It was much like a holiday celebration that our ancestors looked forward to throughout the year, when the maple sugar was finished, and candies were shared.

Today, we still make syrup here on the Isabella Reservation in our sugarbush near the Tribal Campgrounds (on the hill). Our neighbors in Shepherd, also share in the maple syrup tradition every April and celebrate with the Annual Maple Syrup Festival.

  • Come visit the Ziibiwing Center Gift Shop to purchase traditional American Indian harvested maple syrup. Visit our official website (Linked on the side of this Blog) for the Ziibiwing Center’s address and operating hours.
  • Or visit our webstore, to purchase maple syrup and maple candies. (Linked on the side of this Blog)
  • Also, check out our previous blog titled, “Let’s Have Some Fun-How to Make Maple Syrup!” to learn how to prepare your own!