Powwow, Rendezvous Celebrates Cultures

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By Mark Tower

Members of the Loon Travellers, one of the drums at the Rendezvous at the Straits powwow Saturday, August 29. Playing the drum and singing are Rodney Loonsfoot, Jody Gaskin, and Bud Biron. Members of the Loon Travellers, one of the drums at the Rendezvous at the Straits powwow Saturday, August 29. Playing the drum and singing are Rodney Loonsfoot, Jody Gaskin, and Bud Biron. A mingling of cultures was at the forefront of the third annual Rendezvous at the Straits powwow and historical encampment at Father Marquette National Memorial Friday, August 28, through Sunday, August 30. Steady rain all day Saturday kept moccasins and tennis shoes wet.

"Native Americans and white men were getting together right here in the Great Lakes 300 years ago," said Ervin Lantzer of Grand Rapids, who traces his heritage to French- Indian voyageurs, a role he was reenacting Saturday. Reliving the history is important, Mr. Lantzer said, as a way to preserve it for future generations.

"This is active, real history," he said. "If there isn't something like this, it's lost."

The historic encampment took place just down the hill from the powwow grounds at the Father Marquette National Memorial. Traditional tents, canoes, and other tools of the voyageur trade were used to make camp by groups of living historians, possibly close to where voyageurs made their winter camps in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

Living historians Ervin Lantzer, right, and Herb Van, left, pose with Vietnam veteran Jim Zallow, who carried the Little River Band flag during the ceremony honoring veterans Saturday, August 29. Mr. Lantzer and Mr. Van were portraying voyageurs. The three men met and talked across cultures, much like the first Europeans and Indians likely did in the same spot hundreds of years ago. Living historians Ervin Lantzer, right, and Herb Van, left, pose with Vietnam veteran Jim Zallow, who carried the Little River Band flag during the ceremony honoring veterans Saturday, August 29. Mr. Lantzer and Mr. Van were portraying voyageurs. The three men met and talked across cultures, much like the first Europeans and Indians likely did in the same spot hundreds of years ago. Paul Yarnell, designated the head veteran at the powwow, sees the same historic element in the Indian tradition.

"It's good to see it [the powwow] come back here," Mr. Yarnell said. "Our ancestors have been here thousands of years, at least 3,500 years. It's a sacred place."

Drew Berens, from left, Tom Snider, and Justin Woolever at their tent. These reenactors, dressed in the manner of voyageurs, demonstrated the use of centuries-old technology like bark canoes and traditional snowshoes, a way, some said, to keep the history of these people and their way of life alive. Drew Berens, from left, Tom Snider, and Justin Woolever at their tent. These reenactors, dressed in the manner of voyageurs, demonstrated the use of centuries-old technology like bark canoes and traditional snowshoes, a way, some said, to keep the history of these people and their way of life alive. Mr. Yarnell, a veteran of the Korean War, has served as the powwow's chief veteran for all three years it has been held. He led all the veterans, each holding a flag symbolizing where they served or what band they represent, into the powwow circle during the ceremonial Grand Entry at 1 p.m. Saturday.

He reminisced about the first year this powwow was held in 2007, when an eagle flew over the circle just as Grand Entry began, taken by many present as a sign they were doing the right thing in setting up the event.

Above: A dancer prays with his feet to the Creator. The act of dancing is a sacred one in Native American religion and culture, because the earth is their church. Above: A dancer prays with his feet to the Creator. The act of dancing is a sacred one in Native American religion and culture, because the earth is their church. "The eagle flies the highest and carries prayers to the creator," Mr. Yarnell said. "The eagle is always watching us when we are doing things. That is why we are still doing this powwow."

He spoke highly of both the location and the people who made the powwow happen, saying he always has a good time at the gathering.

"That's what it's all about - socializing and having fun," Mr. Yarnell said. "It's an honor to be asked to lead the people."

The pow-wow was marked by a large circle in the center of the arena, where drummers and dancers gathered to "pray with their feet," as Rendezvous coordinator Darryl Brown put it. Outside this circle, people gathered to watch and take part in the dancing, and just beyond, vendors selling and trading traditional and contemporary goods created the outside circle.

At right: Richard Lewis and Rita Boulley, the head male and female dancers at Saturday's powwow, dance around the powwow circle in a sacred prayer. At right: Richard Lewis and Rita Boulley, the head male and female dancers at Saturday's powwow, dance around the powwow circle in a sacred prayer. As well as Indian dancers in full regalia and historians in traditional french trading garb, some came to enjoy the joining of cultures in just jeans and raincoats.

Brenda Adair Taylor and her husband, Phil, said the weather Saturday reminded them of their home in Washington. Mrs. Adair Taylor said she returns to the Straits area nearly every year as a sort of homecoming, since her family and heritage are here.

"Now I know so much more about the people and my ancestors from here," she said. She has been researching family genealogy in the area, and finally received her Indian name on this trip from a medicine man she met at the Fort de Buade museum in St. Ignace. Her new name, Waabooz, means rabbit in the Ojibwa language.

Veterans from foreign wars march into the powwow Saturday, August 29, during the Rendezvous at the Straits powwow grand entry. The festivities began by honoring the veterans, led by Rendezvous coordinator Darryl Brown (left) and Paul Yarnell, a veteran of the Korean War. Veterans from foreign wars march into the powwow Saturday, August 29, during the Rendezvous at the Straits powwow grand entry. The festivities began by honoring the veterans, led by Rendezvous coordinator Darryl Brown (left) and Paul Yarnell, a veteran of the Korean War. "That's something pretty special," she said of the experience.

The powwow, she said, is "a wonderful time for people to get together, pray, and share joys and grief."

As the rich smells of cedar, sage, and fry bread mingled to create an intoxicating aroma, so, too, did many cultures mingle, echoing the rendezvous of European traders and the native people here so many years ago.
Young dancers in action around the powwow circle. Young dancers in action around the powwow circle.

2009-09-03 / News

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