“I wouldn't miss this for anything”
The 3rd Annual Nagaajiwanaang Ambe Ojibwemodaa Immersion camp was held at the Kiwenz Campground on Big Lake on the Fond du Lac reservation on June 23-26, 2011 and over 500 people attended.
There were fluent speakers throughout the camp who held conversations, told stories, taught Ojibwe and some of the traditional games and activities. This year the fluent Ojibwe speakers were Rick Gresczyk, Gordy Jourdain, Helen Roy, Howard Kimiwon, Alphonse Pitawanakwat, Margaret Noori and Sonny Greensky. They were available during the entire camp and made sure that everyone was hearing and learning to speak Ojibwe.
Jim Northrup, III knows how to harvest poles for tipis. This is an art and there is much more to know than meets the eye. He volunteered his time and knowledge and brought the young men from the Mash-Ka-Wisen treatment center to put up the Waaganogans for all the activities to take place in.
Jim is in the Fond du Lac Men’s Group and Jacob and I have come to know him as a good man and a good friend. The young men from the treatment center were clearly proud and honored to be doing something so integral to the success of the camp and it wouldn’t have happened without Jim. The first day was rainy, but they were driving the holes in the ground for the poles, harvesting maple poles and putting the structures together in the rain, but not one of them complained. Under Jim’s leadership they had the opportunity to be a positive influence on their people and youth and it was clear they took that responsibility seriously. What kind of effects will this experience have on them in the future?
Jim Northrup, Sr. was making birch bark baskets in the first waaganogan next to his ever present 1964 Corvette Stingray convertible. Both were looking good. Last year Randy Gresczyk taught us how to make hand drums and this year he showed us how to make drum sticks. I started out making one, then a 10 year old boy came up and wanted to learn, but there were no supplies left to make one. So I held the stick I was making while he helped wind the string around it. Eventually he was holding the stick and I was winding. This ended up with him finishing the drum stick for himself and he proudly showed it to his friends and family. He came up to me multiple times during the day to ask questions and I could tell he just wanted to be near me. In this age of Facebook, twitter and instant connections through the internet, we became friends through a traditional activity that needed only time, mutual respect and shared work.
Frank Montano was teaching flute making. Last year I made a flute with him and it took me 3 days. This year he had over 24 flutes started and people were working on them throughout the entire camp. Since last year, Frank and I have become good friends and we look for each other at powwows and other events. I predict one day Frank will have the NAMMY award for artist of the year.
Rick Gresczyk was playing Ojibwe Jenga. On one side of the block is a phrase in Ojibwe and you have to say it first. The English translation is on the other side. Rick and I played cribbage in Ojibwe and it felt good just to be in his presence.
Last year Charlie “Tuna” Nahgahnub taught how to make ricing poles and knockers and he was teaching again this year. I have always wanted to make my own ricing pole and was hoping to do that last year AND this year, but there are so many different teachings going on that it’s hard to choose what to do next. Not only that, but I didn’t want to take the opportunity from someone else in light of the fact that I won one of Charlie’s ricing poles at the silent auction at the fund raiser for the camp. TWO YEARS AGO. Charlie has been keeping my ricing pole for me that entire time and this year I was finally able to take it home.
Myna and Theodore Toulouse were teaching quill work on birch bark and the baskets that participants made during the camp were intricate and beautiful.
Sarah Agaton Howes was teaching moccasin making. She made the funeral moccasins for my great aunt Emma and my cousin Frank. Both of them died within 4 months of each other this past year. Sarah will always be a friend of our family.
Vicki Ellis taught how to make dream catchers and miniature drums.
Howard Kimiwon spent 2 days getting corn ready for his hominy soup and first mixed the dried corn with hardwood ashes as he was taught when he was young. His hominy soup was served on the evening of the 3rd day and everyone lined up to try it. I sat with him multiple times in those two days and he told me stories of his youth and how to learn from the world around us. I always carry a pocket tool and I give the one I carry to someone I really like and respect and have given them to some very important people.
Film star and blues musician Gary Farmer was at the camp on the last day and this would have been my only chance to give him my pocket tool as I really do like and respect him. I have listened to him in interviews and he is articulate and thoughtful.
Instead, I gave it to Howard. Howard is also articulate and thoughtful and he has the best interests of his people in his heart. That makes him an important person. I’ll hope to catch Gary Farmer another time.
Gordy Jourdain was the announcer for the canoe races and for the ricing canoe races and he did both events entirely in Ojibwe. This was spellbinding and hilarious and a great way to learn our language.
I was asked to do mad science experiments for the kids and did this on 2 separate days. Our people have always understood the world around them and having our kids be scientists AND traditional will benefit us all.
News From Indian Country and IndianCountryTV.com was there the entire time and has video and print coverage of the camp and activities.
Meals were sponsored by families and organizations and there was enough for everybody.
There was a talent show with excellent music and the powwow on the last full night was fun. Terry Goodsky and his drum group played powwow musical chairs (this was hilarious), a potato dance and a two step, spot dances and the 49er.
Miigwech to Pat Northrup for her tireless work and Ivy Vainio for her photography and ability to promote events like this.
If anything is vital to our survival as a people, this is it. I’ll look forward to seeing you next year.
Because I wouldn’t miss this for anything.
Arne Vainio, M.D. is a Family Practice Physician at the Min-No-Aya-Win Human Services Clinic on the Fond du Lac Ojibwe Reservation in Northern Minnesota. He can be reached at email@example.com.