Birch Bark Wigwam Premiere Friday

In conjunction with the festival, a premiere of the one-hour documentary, Ojibwe Birch Bark Wigwam, will be shown at 7 p.m. Friday, March 13, in Jamrich Hall 102. The public is invited and donations are encouraged. It is the latest documentary produced and directed by Michael Loukinen (Sociology), with editing by Grant Guston (Instructional Media Services).

The film follows an Ojibwe cultural educator from Lac du Flambeau, Wis., as he shows a group of primarily elderly Euro-Americans how to build an authentic birch bark wigwam using forest resources. Hands-on techniques learned over centuries are fused with Ojibwe cultural teachings.

“All trees are sacred, but birch to me is a little more,” said Marvin Defoe, a Red Lake Ojibwe. “Wigwams are made with birch bark; we use that to protect our families. We use our canoes to travel on the water. It is a major mode of transportation. We make our makaks, or baskets, to hold and protect our rice. You can even cook in birch bark. There are many uses. But we don’t own that. We are asking the spirits to use that birch bark.”

Viewers will see the making of an offering to the forest spirits before gathering its bounty, peeling birch bark and puncturing holes with a deer bone awl, separating the strands of basswood inner bark for twine and making pine pitch roofing tar. A major theme of the program is intercultural interaction and the appreciation white European-American volunteers have for traditional Ojibwe survival knowledge.

Production and post-production of Birch Bark Wigwam was supported by two grants from the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs. The campus premiere is sponsored by the NMU Anthropology Club and the Native American Student Association.                 


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Updated: March 12, 2009

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