2017-07-20 / Front Page

Reenactors Set Up Camp at St. Ignace

Heritage Days Gives Glimpse of 1700s Lifestyles and Merging Cultures at Straits
By Kevin R. Hess


Historical reenactor Cindy Snider of Levering sits outside of her tent on the grounds of the Museum of Ojibwa Culture. Reenactors from all around came and set up camp in St. Ignace, turning the museum grounds into a picture of St. Ignace in the 1700s. Mrs. Snyder is pictured here with Dozer, representative of a British guard dog that would have been used in those days. Historical reenactor Cindy Snider of Levering sits outside of her tent on the grounds of the Museum of Ojibwa Culture. Reenactors from all around came and set up camp in St. Ignace, turning the museum grounds into a picture of St. Ignace in the 1700s. Mrs. Snyder is pictured here with Dozer, representative of a British guard dog that would have been used in those days. Living historians set up camp on the grounds of the Museum of Ojibwa Culture as part of St. Ignace Heritage Days Friday, July 14, through Sunday, July 16. The event featured a glimpse of life as it was in the late 17th and early 18th century. The festival included Native American music and dancing, craft demonstrations, and cultural teachings of French and British settlements and Native American culture. Reenactors dressed for the time period, slept in tents, and cooked over a fire to bring authenticity to the event. European settlers and Native Americans displayed furs, weaponry, tools, and foods that would have been used to trade with one another. For many of them, reenacting is an opportunity to learn more about other cultures or their own, and to teach it to others.


At left: John Leach (from left), Lynn Johnson, and Nick Barber are dressed as French settlers as part of St. Ignace Heritage Days, Friday, July 14, through Sunday, July 16. All three are members of Project Lakewell, a living history museum that travels to schools and festivals to teach about the maritime history of the Great Lakes. At left: John Leach (from left), Lynn Johnson, and Nick Barber are dressed as French settlers as part of St. Ignace Heritage Days, Friday, July 14, through Sunday, July 16. All three are members of Project Lakewell, a living history museum that travels to schools and festivals to teach about the maritime history of the Great Lakes. Anthony Osterberg is a native of Grand Rapids and has participated in reenactments since the mid- 1990s. He portrayed a European settler in St. Ignace. The things he has learned over the years, he says, have been eye opening.

“It is sobering to take part in all of these reenactments and to learn how badly the Native Americans were treated, and how much blood was shed throughout the years,” said Mr. Osterberg.

Tom Mott of Gladwin is a member of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians. His Native name is Makadewaa Nindoon, or “Black Mouth.” Mr. Mott was dressed in tribal clothing and had his mouth and neck area painted black. According to Mr. Mott, “black mouths” were leaders who would handle negotiations. The black mouth was to make it clear to trade partners that they must listen to what the black mouth says. Mr. Mott has been a living historian for 20 years, and has learned a lot about his own culture through the reenactments. One of the things he has focused on is learning his native language.

“I know enough to greet others and have brief conversations, but I’m trying to learn more,” he said. “The problem is that there are so few expert Native speakers that it is hard to find people to help you learn the language.”

William Bower of Kalamazoo participated in St. Ignace Heritage Days last year for the first time, and returned for this year’s event. Mr. Bower portrayed an English clerk at a trading post. Although it was only his second time attending Heritage Days, he is a regular participant in the Fort Michilimackinac Pageant in Mackinaw City.

Ray and Carole Rewold portrayed French settlers. Mr. Rewold was a French soldier and displayed his 1750s weaponry, gathering a large crowd around him as he shared information about that time period. Mr. and Mrs. Rewold have been reenacting since 1976.

Three members of Project Lakewell were on hand as French settlers. They had their bateau or “boat” those settlers of that time would have used to transport various goods from port to port in the Straits of Mackinac. They would even use the boat to transport oxen. Project Lakewell is a living history museum based in northern Michigan that travels to schools and festivals giving presentations on the maritime history of the Great Lakes.

For Garth Butler, a member of the Ojibwa, reenacting is a way for him to embrace a history from which many in his family have tried to separate themselves. Mr. Butler, whose Ojibwa name is Gekek, or “hawk,” said some of his family still struggle to embrace their native identity. Many Native Americans, especially those of older generations, talk of times when they were taught to be embarrassed by their culture and to instead embrace the culture of the “white man.”

“I grew up hearing stories of how we were white, and to not embrace the native culture,” said Mr. Butler.

Mr. Butler is a Christian and said he believes that some of the teachings he has heard in church encouraged him to stay away from embracing the native culture.

“I remember being warned to stay away from (natives) because they were all going to hell,” he said. “But the more I learned for myself about my culture, the more I realized how wrong that was. Native Americans were spiritual and treasured all that God had blessed them with, often more so that what I had seen in the church.”

Throughout the day Saturday, Native Americans celebrated their culture through song and dance. The Grandmother Moon Singers and the Mukkwa Gizhik drum group from Hessel performed. Many dances were offered, allowing adults and children of all backgrounds to participate.

Saturday evening, La Compagnie, a French Canadian music and dance troupe, entertained the crowd with French Canadian, the Maritimes, Celtic Europe, and North American folk music. The group is made up of members from Warren, Saginaw, Bay City, Chelsea, and Romeo. They got the crowd to participate in several traditional dances, including a traditional French “Paddle Dance,” and the “Dance of the Wolf.” In the paddle dance, men and women line up across from each other. One person begins in the middle between the two lines, with two members of the opposite sex on either side of them. Holding a canoe paddle, they then proceed to hand the paddle to one of the people and dance down the aisle with the other one. Sometimes the choice was too hard, causing the middle person to ditch the paddle and escort both partners down the aisle.

Genot Picor, founder of La Compagnie, is also a storyteller. Friday night, Mr. Picor shared “Stories, Songs, and Dances of the Voyageur,” at the St. Ignace Public Library. Voyageurs were French Canadians who transported furs by canoe. Metis’ Voyageurs are voyageurs who intermixed with Native Americans. The word metis means “mixed.” Mr. Picor told about the French and Native American connection through his presen- tation. Sunday, July 16, Mr. Picor shared “Stories and Songs of the French St. Ignace.”

Programs and presentations were offered at both downtown museums, the Museum of Ojibwa Culture and Fort de Buade, as well as at the St. Ignace Public Library and the Historic Mulcrone House. As part of Heritage Days, a turkey shoot took place Saturday morning at the St. Ignace gun range on Castle Rock Road.

See more photographs on page 10.

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