Powwow to Mark Native Heritage
The sounds of drumbeats boom in the air. Dancers whirl in colorful regalia. Spectators browse traditional art and jewelry. An encampment brings to life Native American and French history. Views of the Mackinac Bridge and Straits of Mackinac are visible from outlooks and paths lined with cedar and birch trees.
This will be the scene at the seventh annual Rendezvous at the Straits Powwow this weekend Friday, August 23, to Sunday, August 25, at Father Marquette National Memorial. Grand entries and dancing will take place Saturday and Sunday. The park is accessible from Boulevard Drive, and it is south of US-2 and north of Bridge View Park near St. Ignace. The events are open to the public with admission fees.
As many as 1,500 people might attend the powwow, said coordinator Darryl Brown of St. Ignace. Participants and spectators will come from California, Canada, Chicago, Florida, Missouri, New Mexico, and Ohio, as well as both the lower and upper peninsulas of Michigan.
Kicking off the powwow is a blessing of the grounds Friday, August 23, at noon for about an hour. Prayers and pipe smoking will bless the event and the people.
“We try to set the mood with a prayer that it is going to be a nice, happy weekend,” Mr. Brown said.
Dancing commences Saturday, August 24, with grand entries at noon and 7 p.m. at Father Marquette National Memorial. Another grand entry is Sunday, August 25, at noon.
Grand entries provide a time for all the dancers to come together. Master of Ceremonies Joe Medicine of Harbor Springs will announce each dancing group, the head dancers, and the dance categories that they will perform following the grand entry.
This is a traditional powwow, unlike others that are competitions with point systems and monetary prizes, noted Mr. Brown, but dancers will still hold lead positions in the lineup. Head veteran dancer will be Tracy Heath of Cheboygan, and head male dancer will be Richard Lewis of Sault Ste. Marie. Head female dancer will be Margeuritte Dusharme of Thessalon, Ontario, and the fire keeper will be Seth Marks of Springfield, Ohio. The arena director will be Steve Perry of Big Rapids.
During the dancing performances, the host drum group, Sturgeon Bay Singers of the Petoskey area, will lead the drumming and singing, along with co-host group, Wolf Wind of Sault Ste. Marie. With the other attending drummers and singers who also contribute their music, they will provide the beat and lyrics to which dancers will perform a variety of traditional arrangements.
“Some of the songs have words with meaning. Other songs, the sound vibration is the meaning,” Mr. Brown said.
Among the dances will be a round dance, fancy dance, men’s dance, women’s dance, and traditional dances by both genders. Each dancing form evokes its own style and meaning. For example, a round dance is a love song.
“It is a melody, like a waltz,” Mr. Brown said.
During a fancy dance, dancers quickly spin and bounce around.
“It is fast. Old people can’t do it. It is high energy,” Mr. Brown added.
The inter-tribal dance invites all people to participate in any style. People do not have to dress in regalia, and the public can join.
“Everybody is all dancing together. That’s really a joy. A lot of people enjoy it,” Mr. Brown said of the inter-tribal dance.
While the dancing is happening and throughout the powwow Saturday and Sunday, artists, traders, and food vendors will offer their goods on the grounds. People can view demonstrations and stroll the interpretive trail with views of the Mackinac Bridge and Lake Michigan, as well.
The powwow comes to a close around 4 p.m. Sunday, when the drummers play a travelling song to wish everyone well and wrap up the weekend.
Amid the powwow events, participants will also march in the Parade of Nations Friday, August 23, at 7 p.m. in downtown St. Ignace.
This year is the second parade in which people of all nationalities, as well as community groups, can walk or ride in antique cars or floats to commemorate their heritage. The procession begins at American Legion Park and travels north on State Street to the Museum of Ojibwa Culture. All nations can join, and preregistration forms are available at Fort de Buade Museum and St. Ignace Chamber of Commerce. There is no cost to participate.
When the parade concludes, people can watch the ceremony showcasing an actor as Father Jacques Marquette arriving to St. Ignace by canoe. The landing ceremony will be at Kiwanis Beach across the street from the Museum of Ojibwa Culture and include a narration of the proceedings followed by a release of luminaries. Also, a pipe ceremony to bless the whole community for both St. Ignace History Week and the Rendezvous at the Straits Powwow will be a part of the activities, Mr. Brown said.
Powwow admission is $5 for the weekend and $4 per day, and children ages five and younger receive free entry. The cost for elders is $4 for the weekend or $3 daily.
Rendezvous at the Straits Powwow Schedule
Friday, August 23
Noon, Powwow Blessing of the Grounds
6:30 p.m., Lineup for the parade at American Legion Park
7 p.m., Parade of Nations on State Street to Museum of Ojibwa Culture
After the parade, Father Marquette Arrival and Narration, Pipe Ceremony, at Kiwanis Beach
Saturday, August 24
Noon, Powwow Grand Entry
7 p.m., Powwow Grand Entry
Sunday, August 25 Noon, Powwow Grand Entry 4 p.m., Powwow concludes