A small class of 15 shuffled out a side door to watch as Jeff Church pounded an ash tree with a short tree trunk that had been already been cut down. Thirty minutes later, 14 to 15 long strips were ready to be split for basket weaving on day three of the Fiber Arts Workshop at the Ziibiwing Center, 6650 E. Broadway Road.
On Monday, January 29, 2008, the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan received a call from Sgt. Roderick LeGardye of the Flint Police Department concerning the inadvertent discovery of human remains in Flint, MI. A construction crew, contracted by the Genesee County Land Bank, was digging out a basement in the historic Carriage Town District when they unearthed remains. Two individuals were excavated by the Michigan State Police and the Bridgeport Crime Lab and were sent to Dr. Norman Sauer at Michigan State University following departmental protocol. Dr. Sauer verified that the remains were of American Indian ancestry dating over 150 years old. The following day, on January 30, the remains of two more individuals were unearthed. In all, up to 30 or more individuals may have been unearthed and/or exposed at this historic burial site (site #20GS136).
Since the inadvertent discovery, the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan (SCIT) has continued to advise the Genesee County Land Bank and the City of Flint on the steps necessary to mitigate this unfortunate situation.
On June 2, 2009, the SCIT’s Tribal Council passed a motion to direct the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture & Lifeways to coordinate an archaeological ancestral recovery of the Stone Street site beginning on August 13, 2009. The ancestors were sifted from over 76,000 cubic feet of dirt/housing debris/rubbish piles situated across four single-family unit city parcels. Many committed people worked at the site from August 13, 2009 until November when the project was suspended for the winter.
From extensive research, the Ziibiwing Center found that the area now known as the City of Flint was once an established and thriving early Saginaw Chippewa village. To date, the Ziibiwing Center has secured the assistance and support from the Michigan Anishinaabek Cultural Preservation and Repatriation Alliance (MAGPRA), an organization that is comprised of members from the twelve federally-recognized Tribes of Michigan and two state historic Tribes.
At 12pm, on Tuesday, May 11, 2010, the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture & Lifeways officially re-opened the Stone Street Ancestral Recovery & Reburial Project site. A Pipe Ceremony, Ground Blessing, Feast, and special presentations prepared the area and workers to resume the ancestral recovery process.
The Ziibiwing Center is inviting volunteers to once again work at the site beginning now thru August on Tuesdays-Saturdays from 9am-3pm. Volunteers will work hand and hand with an experienced Tribal Member work crew; under the supervision of Principal Investigator and Consultant, Dr. Beverley Smith (U of M Flint), and Field Supervisors Frank Raslich (Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Member), his wife Nicole Raslich, and Thomasine MeShawboose (Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Member).
When the recovery process is complete, all ancestral human remains will be reinterred at the site. The land will then be restored, seeded with grass, and become classified as protected property that cannot be commercially developed.
Ways You Can Help
To make food, water, supplies, or monetary donations for the effort
please contact the Ziibiwing Center at (989) 775-4750.
Tuesday-Saturdays, May 11-August, 2010
519 Stone Street
Flint, MI 48503
Dress for the work and the weather. Wear a hat, bring a water bottle, your gardening/work gloves, a lawn chair, and sunscreen. In the event of inclement weather, the project may be suspended for the day(s) – please call the Ziibiwing Center at (989) 775-4750 for up-to-date information.
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 & 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.
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
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, Nativedirect.com 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!
The Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture & Lifeways in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan is the Midwest’s Premier American Indian Museum. Established in 2004, the Ziibiwing Center is a distinctive treasure created to provide an enriched, diversified, and culturally relevant educational experience through its award-winning Diba Jimooyung (Telling Our Story) permanent exhibit, changing exhibits, research center, Ojibway language immersion room, gift shop, and meeting rooms. The Ziibiwing Center is a non-profit cultural center and museum belonging to the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan. Visit us at www.sagchip.org/ziibiwing