30th Annual Saginaw Chippewa Powwow teaches virtues of Native culture
Louanna Bruner was not raised on the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Reservation. In fact, she only moved to Mount Pleasant in 1995. However, one of her fondest memories growing up was attending the traditional Powwows put on by the Tribe.
Despite not being raised in the Native American heritage, Bruner’s made it a point to remain in close contact with her culture. Even more so, she wants her ancestry to be a cornerstone for her children.
“It’s a spiritual connection,” Bruner said. “My daughter dances. It’s natural for her to dance and be immersed in our culture. I learn through them. They continuously remind me what’s important. I’m grateful I’m here.”
By attending the 30th Annual Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Powwow on Saturday, Bruner has yet again given her 10-year-old daughter, Jenna, a chance to learn more about where they came from.
The events, which are held twice a year, host tribes from all over North America. The share of their culture among themselves and with interested outsiders has become a major conduit for expressing a rich Native history.
Dressed in colorful regalia, nearly 700 Native Americans danced to intertribal songs played with traditional instrumentation.
While the Powwows help to reaffirm who they are, Jenna and Bruner’s other children have another interesting avenue that educates them on their antiquity – their grandfather is Richard “Yogi” Jackson, the fifth oldest member of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe.
Yogi beaded a necklace that Jenna now wears while she dances.
“She told me she brings it to every Powwow,” Bruner said. “I’m glad my kids cherish (their culture) instead of just taking it for granted.”
Yogi has been going to Powwows for decades. In many ways, the Powwows are his birthright. Yogi’s roots run deep into reservation soil, as his family was the very first to have a house on the allocated lands.
In these modern times, Yogi said it’s important the Tribe to keep his culture alive.
“It’s really nice to see so many Indians gathered,” Yogi said.
Non-Tribal members also attend the Powwow to learn about the history and heritage behind the Tribe. Donna Kriss, a life-long Mount Pleasant resident, said she has attended many Powwows in her lifetime, and is always learning something new.
Kriss said she started to learn about the Tribe’s culture at a young age because one of her classmates would go into the woods to learn about his heritage.
“It was so totally foreign to us white kids,” she said. “I knew a little bit, but I just didn’t understand it. There’s so much culture here. I can’t even begin to scratch the surface of understanding. The more that I come, the more that I learn.”
An unlikely education for vendors
Vendors at the Powwow also enjoy spending time around the dancers and drummers. Cindy and Chris Bowman travel the country attending Powwows and selling their handmade crafts.
“We love meeting new people,” Cindy said. “Seeing the dancers that go from one Powwow to the next is great. A lot of dancers make a living doing this. It’s always nice to hear their name called when they win.”
The couple from Raleigh, N.C. said they enjoy making the traditional wares they sell because it connects them to their own family history. Cindy is a member of the Osage Nation in North Carolina.
The two spend countless hours on the road while making and selling purses, jewelry, arrows, artwork and dreamcatchers. They attend at least 30 Powwows every year.
“I’ll be driving, and she’s still making stuff,” Chris said. “When we’re not traveling, we’re still working. Everything’s a little different.”
Cindy added, “It’s hard work, but we like meeting new people and new vendors.”
[gallery type=“slideshow” ids=“188266,188267,188268,188269,188270,188271,188272,188273,188274,188275,188276,188277,188278,188279,188280,188281,188282,188283,188284,188285,188286,188287,188288,188289,188290,188291,188292,188293,188294,188295,188296,188297,188298,188299,188300,188301” orderby=“rand”]