MARQUETTE— Northern Michigan University’s Center for Native American Studies has been awarded a $22,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The center will partner with the tribal historic preservation office at the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa to launch “Creating and Learning Art in Native Settings,” or the CLANS project.
The goal of the project is to revitalize traditional Anishinaabe dances, songs and art through an intensive week-long summer program featuring 11 recognized American Indian artists. The program will be held at the Old Indian Village in Watersmeet, Mich. American Indian middle school or high school youth from Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota are invited to apply.
“This arts education project is designed to teach traditional arts to American Indian youth in a Native community,” said April Lindala, director of the NMU center. “We will combine active learning within a cultural context and cultural environment. Youth will learn not only how to make items such as black ash baskets and cattail mats, but they will learn how to seek out and collect the materials. This will give us a vehicle to discuss with youth the cultural significance of respecting the natural environment, as well as how treaties can serve as a guide for gathering natural resources.”
Youth participants will also learn Anishinaabe songs, dances and regalia-making during the project. Lindala said many American Indian youth have not been taught the origins and stories of traditional social songs and dances.
“Even the most traveled powwow dancer may only see, for example, the ‘fish dance’ or the ‘buck and doe dance’ performed once or twice a year,” she said. “Tribal community leaders are eager to see our young people learn how to do these dances so the cultural significance will not be lost. We want youth to learn these songs and dances with the objective of being able to share them at an event such as a community powwow or with their friends in their own communities.”
The name of the project comes from the term clan, or dodem, which is defined as one’s extended family within the tribe. Lindala said many tribal nations have multiple clans—for example, bear, crane, loon or turtle—and traditionally, each group has a responsibility to the tribe as a whole.
“The CLANS project is about sharing these cultural teachings with the message that our youth will then have the responsibility to share what they learned with others, just as clans have a responsibility to their tribes,” she added.
The Center for Native American Studies is receiving additional support for this project from the NMU College of Arts and Sciences. Other project partners include the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community’s Youth Program, the Hannahville Indian School, the Hannahville Indian Community’s Youth Program and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, which represents eleven tribes in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
For more information about the CLANS project, contact the NMU Center for Native American Studies at 906-227-1397 or visit www.nmu.edu/nativeamericans.