As we’re wrapping up the project, which ends tomorrow, we’ve allowed the students to have a little fun and create their own “youth based” content. The highlight of these are the two student created films, now available on a YouTube near you…
On Friday we had a partial class field trip, with me and a little over half the class, to go blueberry picking at one of the many wild blueberry patches on the reservation. Rikki Timmer, one of the students, taught me the merits of “blue mouth” picking — eating as you go. Despite the stomach ache I may or may not have developed, it was a delicious pre-lunch snack.
After returning back to the apartment in Sault Ste Marie, I took my bucket of berries (which was a little less full than when I left) and made a wild blueberry streudel. It’s proven to be an excellent breakfast… and lunch… and after dinner snack.
And because, yes, I am mostly posting en masse mostly to dump photos, here are the blueberry images.
Two things of note…
1) Manny is no longer a Red Sox, as reports have a trade sending him to LA coming in just under the wire. But the real question is… do they have a bathroom in Dodger Stadium’s left field?
I jest, but the Red Sox sure are going to miss a guy who can make plays like this one.
2) Yesterday I went to a flint mine with four of my students. I’m not supposed to tell you where it is, but given the directions I had, they probably wouldn’t help you anyway. One step was “Take this unmarked dirt road that’s across the way from a blue house, except that I think they might have painted recently, so the house isn’t blue anymore.”
But, using a steel striker one of the students brought along, we did manage to build a fire without the aid of matches. Having rained the night before, finding dry birch bark was non-trivial and what we did find was struggling to light. As things were looking bleak, one of my students reached into his pocket, said, “I know a trick that indians have been using for days,” and pulled out a lighter. But he didn’t have to use it — another student finally managed to get a spark to catch on.
This morning I headed out with our students to the Bark Docks, a campsite on the shore of Lake Superior where some of the members of the Bay Mills tribe have a gathering permit. And what were we gathering? Clay! It sits under the sand at the mouth of a creek which flows into Whitefish Bay.
Wanda, one of the historians at the Bay Mills History center, canoed out to the clay deposits as the students, other instructors and I walked there along the beach. “You’ll know you’ve hit the clay when you start to sink,” she told us.
One of our students found a hole at the water’s edge and stepped in up to his calf, so we figured we were there. “No, no, keep going,” she said, “There’s more clay up ahead.” Eventually we reached the spot and started scouring the waters to find places where we might start to sink and thus would take the shovels and dig. The water was only about two feet deep, so we waded and scoped out the area with our feet. We could tell it was softer than regular sand, but no one was sinking…
… then one of our students let out a yell and we turned and saw him knee deep in sand and clay. His cousin and brother soon joined him in the sinkhole of clay that at one point had them chest deep in the water. We started digging and pulled up handfuls of clay and put them in plastic bags. Eventually I found another hole when I stepped thigh deep into it. Wanda apparently snapped a picture of me struggling to pull myself out, so if I get my hands on it, I’ll post it.
After we finished collecting clay (and I took a brisk swim in Lake Superior to wash off the clay covering my legs and arms), we sat on the beach and kneaded sand into our clay as a binder. Once the clay had the sand worked into it and had dried out a little, we proceeded to make pots and beads and figurines and whatever else people felt like making. When they dry (possibly tonight or tomorrow), Wanda and her family will fire them in the firepit they dug on the beach.
Shortly before we had to take off, I took my second swim (to wash off the clay I had smeared on my arms in a futile attempt to fend off bugs) and dove head first into the cold waters of Lake Superior. I was a little disappointed that we couldn’t stay longer — I could get used to a life like this.
I’ve just returned from my first ever pow wow, the 17th annual Bay Mills Honoring Our Veterans Pow Wow to be specific. My photos are here. For those unaware, a pow wow is basically a drum and dance competition within the community — and sometimes competitors come from neighboring reservations and tribes. The dancers are judged both on their skills as a dancer and on their regalia, most of which was breathtaking. I can’t even begin to imagine the number of hours spent on the bead work alone!
We showed up for the start on Friday and I was a little let down by the casualness of what I saw. But it turns out, Friday was just the hand drum competition and the just-for-fun two-step “competition.” The Grand Entry (which I took pictures of before I learned it was sacred — they’ve been deleted) didn’t take place until Saturday afternoon. The remainder of Saturday and Sunday was filled with impressive competition dancing and intertribals.
Dancers are categorized by gender, age group (juniors, teens, adult, and golden agers), and style of dance. Men’s dancing, which is for the most part flashier than women’s dancing, has three styles: traditional, grass, and fancy. Fancy, as the name suggests, is the most intricate of the three, both in dance steps and regalia, and seemed to be the crowd favorite. By comparison, women’s traditional is much more controlled — the movement is minimal and the focus is on positioning. Each little movement has deep healing significance. Women’s jingle, as it sounds, is the noisiest of the women’s dances. The regalia for these dances are covered in little metal cones which “jingle” as they dance. However, I preferred women’s fancy shawl dancing, which has the most elaborate quilting of any of the women’s costumes.
In between the competition dance rounds were the intertribal dances. During these dances, which were open to anyone, each of the five drum groups were judged. The singing drum groups consist of around six men who all beat the same drum while singing. The students in my class told me that women are not allowed to beat the main drum, though they can play the hand drums and sing. Indeed, two of the five groups had a woman singer who stood behind the drummer and joined in the choruses — and they were the groups who took first and second in the competition.
Beyond the competition part of the pow wow were vendors selling their wares and food — mmm, fry bread and wild rice soup. The whole thing had an air of any other small town celebration that I’ve been to. Little kids ran around, high school students hung in the back seeming too cool for it all (but not too cool to skip it entirely), and parents and grandparents beamed with pride when it came their kid’s turn to compete. With the exception of the rainstorm that blew threw in the middle of Saturday, the weather was gorgeous. It was a great way to spend a weekend.