2007-08-30 / Front Page

Rendezvous Revives Powwow Tradition

"The Creator was going to destroy us because the people were not respecting the land, but the eagle, seeing the Anishinabe, intervened and said, 'these are good people.' It gave the Anishinabe another chance." - Butch Elliot, Powwow Emcee
By Ryan Schlehuber

Darryl Brown of St. Ignace (from left), the event coordinator, Les Ailing of Big Bay, and Paul Yarnell, head veteran dancer, lead the way during the grand entrance dance Saturday, August 25. Darryl Brown of St. Ignace (from left), the event coordinator, Les Ailing of Big Bay, and Paul Yarnell, head veteran dancer, lead the way during the grand entrance dance Saturday, August 25. When an eagle was spotted flying over the weekend celebration of the Rendezvous at the Straits Powwow and French Voyageur Reenactment Saturday, August 25, the Native American elders on hand saw it as a blessing from the Great Spirit to revive the powwow tradition in St. Ignace.

The event, held Saturday and Sunday, was orchestrated by Darryl Brown, working with various governments and organizations to conduct the powwow at Father Marquette Memorial Park, near the Mackinac Bridge.

For his accomplishments toward the successful event, Mr. Brown was presented with an eagle feather during the powwow by Paul Yarnell, head veteran dancer, Sunday, August 26. Presentation of an eagle feather is a prestigious honor among Native Americans.

"It is not easy to express all the experience I have gained with putting on something like this," said Mr. Brown, speaking to the crowd. "It's been a wonderful experience from the beginning.

The Rendezvous at the Straits was an event for the entire family, including for intepreters and their families, such as Native American interpreter Keith Knecht of Cheboygan with his two daughters, Ann (left) and Margaret, both four years old. The girls are wearing what would be the standard clothing for children from the 1740s to 1770s era. The Rendezvous at the Straits was an event for the entire family, including for intepreters and their families, such as Native American interpreter Keith Knecht of Cheboygan with his two daughters, Ann (left) and Margaret, both four years old. The girls are wearing what would be the standard clothing for children from the 1740s to 1770s era. "This area has a great history. This land has always been special to us," he continued. "I cannot take all the credit for this. There was a wonderful outcry to have a powwow back here. The only credit I can take, really, is listening to the people wanting a powwow back here."

The eagle flying overhead made the event even more special.

"It was like the perfect cue," said Mr. Brown about the eagle. "It really means a lot to us to have that happen."

Throughout the weekend, visitors meandered through the trails at the busy park, entertained by more than 20 arts and crafts and ethnic food vendors, many French voyageurs and reenactors, and Native American traditional dancers. Music was provided by the Bahweting and Sturgeon Bay singers, who were placed in the center of the circle of dance.

Drummers and singers from Sturgeon Bay, pictured here, and the Bahweting singers provided music for the powwow throughout the weekend. Drummers and singers from Sturgeon Bay, pictured here, and the Bahweting singers provided music for the powwow throughout the weekend. Many traditional dances were held throughout the weekend, as well as other performances, such as the hoop dance by 14-year-old Rita DeVoy of Sault Ste. Marie. Hoop dancing, she said, was used as a healing dance for the sick.

Native American traditional dancing is sacred, thus, at many powwows, picture-taking and public participation in the dances are usually prohibited, however, said Mr. Brown, he and other powwow organizers agreed it was important to spread the experience of a powwow and pass on the teachings of what it means to Native American people. People were asked not to take photographs of only a few traditional dances, such as the veterans dance, throughout the weekend.

For Judi Engle, president of the Michilimackinac Historical Society in St. Ignace, it was a chance to join in the dancing and represent her French heritage at the same time.

St. Ignace's Carl Andress in his regalia at the powwow. St. Ignace's Carl Andress in his regalia at the powwow. The inclusion of St. Ignace's French culture was a feature that is not usually seen at powwows but, say event coordinators, the combination of the two cultures at this event worked out well.

"It was a really good weekend," said Bob Meyer, a French voyageur reenactor from Bridgeport. "We were treated very well. It's also a great location because it is so peaceful."

Aaron Payment, chairman of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, speaking to the gathering Sunday, said he was impressed with how well the Odawa and French cultures were represented at the event.

French voyageur camps were set up at the entrance of the park and down the hill from the powwow, where a tent, a fireplace, and a fur stand were displayed. Members of the French and Indian encampments wore authentic period clothing from 1690 through 1770 and 1800 through 1850.

Tim Kent, a reenactor from Ossineke and a historian of the Michilimackinac area, and Native American interpreter Keith Knecht and his family greeted visitors at the entrance of the park. Bob Schafer of St. Ignace had his newly built Mackinaw boat on display near the entrance.

Eight-year-old Alaysia Brewer (middle) of Sault Ste. Marie leads the way during the traditional children's dance Sunday. The girl on the left is one-year-old Autumn Wright of Sault Ste. Marie. The girl on the right is unidentified. Eight-year-old Alaysia Brewer (middle) of Sault Ste. Marie leads the way during the traditional children's dance Sunday. The girl on the left is one-year-old Autumn Wright of Sault Ste. Marie. The girl on the right is unidentified. Brother Jim Boynton of Mackinac Island and St. Ignace lectured on the history of the Michilimackinac area at the park's pavilion.

Mr. Brown was impressed to see Bucko Teeple of Bay Mills, a wellrespected traditional elder and spiritual leader, attend the event, as well.

A film crew from Detroit Public News broadcast was on hand to capture the event, as well, to be used in a documentary about the history of the Great Lakes. Mr. Brown believes the two-hour documentary may be aired some time in November.

Holding an event that highlights the area's history and heritage is exactly what St. Ignace needs in today's economic-depressed society, said Emily Ramsey of Sault Ste. Marie, praising Mr. Brown and the St. Ignace Special Events Committee's accomplishment in creating the event.

Eight-year-old Kaleb Lunnam of Mount Pleasant, dressed in colorful regalia, performs a fancy dance Sunday. He has been involved in traditional dancing for more than two years. Eight-year-old Kaleb Lunnam of Mount Pleasant, dressed in colorful regalia, performs a fancy dance Sunday. He has been involved in traditional dancing for more than two years. "This could be a resurgence for the city," she said. "With tourism declining, you need to find new ways to bring people back. I think Darryl has done an amazing job, and I hope this continues each year."

Mr. Yarnell agrees.

"We've missed Michilimackinac," he said. "This is a very sacred place and it is great to be back here."

Special Events Committee member Cheryl Schlehuber, also president of the St. Ignace Chamber of Commerce, has already requested reservations for the park at the same time next year for another powwow.

"That park is the best location for a powwow," she said. "It's away from the ferry and car noises, which is one thing the elders talked about when the powwow was held at the Ojibwe museum downtown. We've had an incredible response from people, especially considering that we pulled it off with only a short time of preparing for it."

The Rendezvous included several French voyageur reenactors who set up encampments around the powwow, displaying the many utensils, tools, and camp tents used in the fur trade era. Pictured in front of the voyageur camp fur stand are (left) Bob Meyer of Bridgeport and Tom Snider of Levering. The Rendezvous included several French voyageur reenactors who set up encampments around the powwow, displaying the many utensils, tools, and camp tents used in the fur trade era. Pictured in front of the voyageur camp fur stand are (left) Bob Meyer of Bridgeport and Tom Snider of Levering. "It's a new beginning," said Mr. Brown. "It's a new time and a new place. The location speaks for itself. It was really the most captivating ingredient for this event. It's the perfect background for the type of ceremony we strive for."

Continuing the Rendezvous event is highly important, not just for local Native Americans, but for the entire St. Ignace community, said Mr. Brown.

"I want to maintain this," he said. "I would like to see this as a permanent location for the powwow. There were many roadblocks we had to overcome to get it here, but there was somebody to help me every time I needed it. The communication and the collaboration of all who were involved was very significant. The land was already here, we just had to find the people to put the powwow together, and we did."

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