MARQUETTE - A new documentary that explores traditional Ojibwe teachings, language, culture and spiritual identity will premiere at Northern Michigan University on Saturday, Feb. 16. This latest project by sociology professor and filmmaker Michael Loukinen focuses on the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa near Watersmeet.
Anishinaabe Gikinooamaadiwin, or Ojibwe Teachings, will be shown at 6 p.m. in room 103 Jamrich Hall, with a post-screening reception in the Peter White Lounge in the University Center. Donations will be accepted.
"This documentary was made over a period of four years," said Loukinen. "We are not saying that this film presents the only correct expressions of Ojibwe culture. Teachings and language may vary across regions and among tribes, bands and even families. It is actually three separate films, each edited for appropriate classroom length. It is designed for serious viewers to watch over and over again."
The first segment is called 7he Silent Years. It refers to childhood experiences of being separated from families and tribal culture and sent to a Catholic boarding school hundreds of miles away. Upon returning, they confronted key issues on how to find their way back to lost traditions and how to most effectively pass them on to tribal youth.
The second segment, Traditional Teachings, documents efforts to teach the expressive customs of beadwork and the Ojibwe language. Some parents face the embarrassing problem of not knowing their own tribal traditions and therefore are not in a position to teach their own children. The film suggests that more parents could become involved in this process with support from the Elders.
Spiritual Identity is the third and final part of the documentary. It explores how individuals can derive an identity by learning spiritual beliefs. Jim Williams Sr., an Elder in the Lac Vieux Desert tribe, explains that these "life lessons" must be learned gradually over time and integrated at a deep, personal level.
"Be like an oak tree that grows slowly and not like a 'popple' (aspen) that grows quickly but has shallow roots and is the first to fall in a strong wind," Williams said. "The important
answers and the gifts from the Creator are always inside of us. We have to patiently conduct the inner search and never, never give up. Keep at it. When you finally get somewhere, don't look back and laugh at those who are behind you."
Lac Vieux Desert members first contacted Loukinen in 1996, after becoming increasingly aware of the loss of their traditional Elders. They approved a two-pronged project: building a digital archive of video, sound and transcribed text to preserve their tribal heritage; and completing a series of documentaries designed to increase the understanding of and sense of appreciation for their heritage.
Loukinen began recording in 1998. Throughout the process, from preparation to postproduction, he has relied heavily on the assistance of NMU students. Loukinen also utilized the expertise of NNM faculty and staff in such roles as narrator, cultural advisor, story consultant and musician.
Ojibwe Teachings is the first film in the proposed series. The remaining productions scheduled to be completed will cover the following topics relevant to the Lac Vieux Desert Band: wi 'Id rice activities such as planting, harvesting and cooking; the cultural significance of powwows; and a historical account of the tribe's migration and settlement, evolving into a look at how the gaming industry has impacted contemporary work and leisure activities.
Major funding for Ojibwe Teachings was provided by the followings the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa; Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs; NMU faculty grants; the NMU department of sociology and social work; and the NNW College of Professional Studies.
"For more information, contact Michael Loukinen at (906) 227-204 1."