Rendezvous at the Straits Celebrates Culture

Published in 2014 by The St. Ignace News

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The Rendezvous at the Straits Powwow, now in its eighth year, brought family, friends, and newcomers together at the Father Marquette National Memorial west of St. Ignace Friday, August 22, through Sunday, August 24. Multicolored satin ribbons fluttered from cedar boughs, drumming and singing rang out across the clearing, the dancers whirled on, and family and friends celebrated their heritage.

“It was an excellent weekend,” event organizer Darryl Brown said. “We were blessed with really good weather and everyone’s been having a good time.”

The powwow drew many of the people who attended last year, as well as many new faces, he said. This year’s powwow attracted people from further away than ever before, including many from communities in Canada. It is open to the public with a goal of teaching spectators about Native American traditions. Vendors of crafts offer their goods at booths arranged around the central dancing circle. Host drum was Sturgeon Bay from Petoskey and Bahweting from Sault Ste. Marie co-hosted. White Frost Sobriety Drum from Ontario was an invited drum.

Head male dancer Richard Lewis of Sault Ste. Marie makes his way past the cedar arbor in the center of the dancing circle at Rendezvous at the Straits.Head dancer veteran was Gene Reid of White Cloud, head male dancer was Richard Lewis of Sault Ste. Marie, and head female dancer was Marguerite Disharme from Ontario.

John David Duncan, a Frenchspeaking Canadian from Quebec, who now lives in Windsor, Ontario, said that he feels a powerful connection to the area owing to his heritage.

Summer Mellon, of Garden River, Ontario, dances with a fancy shawl at the Rendezvous at the Straits Powwow at the Father Marquette National Memorial Friday, August 22, through Sunday, August 24. She has been dancing since she was six years old and attended the powwow with her parents.“This was my land too, this area, though a lot of people have forgotten. We are family here,” Mr. Duncan said.

Bryan Myers of Montague attended with his daughter, Emma. They are members of The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians but also descended from the Mackinac Band, so they feel a deeper connection to their ancestry at the Rendezvous at the Straits than anywhere else, Mr. Myers said. They’ve been attending the rendezvous for five years now.

“We just love it. It’s smaller and out here [at the Father Marquette memorial], which is wonderful. It was great when it was in town, it attracted more people, but I like it like this. It’s private. It’s about the dancing and the culture.”

Nibbs Prescott of Kalamazoo has danced in powwows around the state for the past seven years and attended the rendezvous for the first time this weekend.

“The head veteran told me about it,” he said. “I like dancing it because there are others who can’t do it and I’m dancing for them.”

Mr. Prescott said that he also likes seeing the children dancing. Many others in attendance agreed with him.

“This is a way we teach our traditional dances and our traditional ways to our children,” Mr. Brown said. “That’s one of the biggest reasons we have to do this. It feels like a responsibility.”

At right: Carl Andress of Hessel repairs his war shield with the help of his four-year-old granddaughter, Harley Schlehuber. He handmade all of his own regalia and most of the pieces are 40 years old. Bayzhi Matrious, of Sault Ste. Marie, brought her two daughters — Aazhaaniise and Benayshi Keller, five and two years old, respectively — after her sister convinced her to attend the powwow.

“She’d been trying to get us to come down here for a while, but this is the first year she succeeded and I’m loving it,” she said. “It’s just beautiful here.”

She sewed both of her daughters’ regalia, except for her eldest daughter’s yoke. That particular piece belonged to her when she was a child.

Sonja Killips of Bay Mills dances in a yellow jingle dress at the Rendezvous at the Straits Powwow.“It’s good to be able to pass it on and to see them enjoying the dancing,” Ms. Matrious said.

The event not only brings people together from a wide geographic range, but it also helps to connect people across time, said Sam Doyle of DeTour Village. Mr. Doyle was one of the fire keepers at the event, responsible for keeping a sacred fire lit perpetually throughout the powwow. He has been tending fires at the rendezvous for four or five years, he said.

“Part of this is about our people dancing with our ancestors the way they used to dance,” he said. “It’s about doing things the way our ancestors did and passed on to us, it’s a way of honoring them.”

Aaron Payment, Sault Tribe chairman, attended the event as a private citizen. The tribe supported the event, but did not host it, he said.

Summer Mellon (left) and Isabella Addington prepare together for a fancy shawl dance at the Rendezvous at the Straits Powwow.“It’s so great to keep our traditions alive,” he said. “This powwow I really like because it’s kind of relaxed with a really friendly vibe. Everyone is really pleased to see each other and just come together to share our culture.”