Tuesday, August 13, 2013


One of the tasks of the fifth Steve Martinez novel (if I ever finish it) will be for Steve, born Native American but adopted as an infant and raised in white culture, to confront his Lakota biological heritage in dramatic fashion.

Lately I've been trying to figure out how to do this, and perhaps a good setting would be the Ojibwe powwow hosted by the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians every year on the southern shore of the lake near Watersmeet, Michigan. That's in Gogebic County, the bailiwick just south of Steve's jurisdiction in the fictional Porcupine County (really Ontonagon County).

And so I attended the 2013 powwow last weekend. It was deeply fascinating, primarily because it is intended as a gathering for Native Americans, not itinerant tourists. No admission is charged. (Non-Native Americans are welcome all the same.)

The people who dance are largely believers in traditional Indian religions. The music is drumming and the songs are in Ojibwemowin, the language of the Anishinabe, better known to whites as Ojibwe or Chippewas. Assimilated Native Americans from all over "Indian country" in the Midwest also attend, presumably to socialize with friends but also, I suspect, to tap their spiritual roots.

The participants show extreme pride in not only the colorful ceremonial dress of Woodland and Plains Indians, but also in their long history of military service to an ungrateful country that has lied to and cheated them from the very beginning. I don't yet know how Steve is going to approach this kind of devotion or what effect it will have on him, but much will depend on what he sees as well as what he experiences.

To that end I took a camera along on my visit and videotaped some of the dancing. The result follows:

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