Charmaine Marjorie Shawana
3/29/2022 11:24:00 AM
Charmaine Marjorie Shawana (born January 9, 1955), Dabesawkwe (Light Rain Woman) began her journey to the Forever Place in the early morning of March 29, 2022. Honoring her Marten Clan responsibilities, Charmaine was a fierce Ogemakwe of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan, an inspiration, and a strong role model for so many.
Charmaine was born in Washington, D.C., and was an avid traveler to many states and countries. Her father and mother served in the U. S. Army and experienced the world with their six children. Their travels inspired Charmaine to become a writer, contributing to many creative endeavors. Charmaine loved her time spent listening to Tribal Elders, learning about Tribal history and values, and applied those teachings to her daily life and the raising of her family. She credited her mother, Marjorie Davis Benz, with teaching her the importance of oral history and storytelling. She spoke of her mother often, saying: “She could keep us kids spellbound for hours telling us tales of her younger years.” As a teen, Charmaine blossomed through the art of creative writing. She attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe and obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Work from Saginaw Valley State University. Loving to learn, Charmaine earned her Master’s degree in Literature and English from Michigan State University. Her work has been published and presented in multiple prestigious venues. She was the Managing Editor of Diba Jimooyung (Telling Our Story), the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe’s definitive history.
Charmaine was a Midewiwin Ogemakwe, 2nd degree and singer with the Three Fires Midewiwin Society, inspiring many family members and friends to Mino Bimadziwin,(the Good Life), the way of the Ancestors. She was devoted to learning Anishinaabemowin, so much so that she moved to Wikwemikong to immerse herself in the language. It was during this time that she met her husband, Zozep Shawana.
A many-faceted, multi-talented woman, Charmaine has been a critical part of carrying forward her ideals and the teachings she held dear for the advancement of her people. She helped design and develop the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture & Lifeways, proudly served on Tribal Council for multiple terms, repatriated numerous ancestors & their funerary belongings, and was instrumental in establishing the Tribe’s Data Governance Board and Data Sovereignty Plan. She served as the Director of Ojibwe Substance Abuse and as the Tribe’s Tribal Historic Preservation Officer.
Charmaine devoted herself to serving the community, and for many years represented her fellow citizens on Tribal Council for the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan. In her tenure with the Tribe, she served on four Tribal Councils, as Treasurer from 2003 – 2005, and as a Council Member from 2009 – 2013.
An entrepreneur, Charmaine owned Anishinaabe Sportwear, a sportswear enterprise that promoted Native pride through wearing our traditional designs, colors and symbols in daily life. Her products featured the work of Anishinaabek artists, including a long-time partnership with David Shananquet-ba. There likely isn’t a Native person who doesn’t own an Anishinaabe Sportwear t-shirt, or two or three or five. Charmaine always promoted the beauty of our Tribal traditional arts, clan teachings and the intergenerational sharing of our lifeways. She was integral to many competition and traditional powwows, tirelessly setting up her stand and sharing her love for the beauty of Anishinaabek art. Everything about her work said: “We have always been here…and we aren’t going anywhere.”
Charmaine is survived by her loving husband Zozep Shawana; fierce daughters Consuelo (Julian) Gonzalez, Guadalupe (Cheryl) Gonzalez, Monica (Alicia) Gonzalez, Mary (Manuel) Gonzalez, Angela (Luciano) Gonzalez, and Chris Gonzalez; her sister Marcella (Lee) Hadden, devoted brothers Charles N. (Bill) Benz, Carl (Louis) Benz, and Craig (Naonda) Benz; and her fur baby, Sir Elton John. Charmaine’s beautiful grandchildren are David (Olivia), Marjorie, Mattea, Mercedes, Kilie (Jesse), Keaghan, Kameryn, Dante, Gabriel and several special extended family members.
Charmaine is preceded in death by her parents, retired Master Sargent Charles Benz and Sargent Marjorie Davis Benz, sister Mercedes Benz, and great-nephews Charles Benz III and Tysen Benz.
Visitation will be held at Clark Family Funeral Chapel on Wednesday, March 30, 2022 from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. followed by Midewiwin Ceremony from 7pm – 9pm and Thursday, March 31, 2022 from 5pm – 7pm, followed by Midewiwin Ceremony from 7pm – 9pm lead by Bibamkowe. Funeral services will be held Friday, April 1, 2022 at 2p.m. in the Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Gym, 7070 East Broadway, Mount Pleasant, Michigan.
Memorials in honor of Charmaine’s legacy may be made to the American Cancer Society at www.cancer.org
Her daughters sum up their love and admiration eloquently and show the true measure of this amazing woman. Consuelo recognized Charmaine’s indominable strength and makes a wish for her to know she can rest now; we will all be ok: “May you rest in peace, Momma…I love you” Lupe acknowledged Charmaine’s absolute devotion to her girls and the commitment she made to raising them: “All the best parts of me are because of you.” Monica’s heartfelt tribute is “thank you for being the mom that you didn’t have to be.”
Baamaapiik kiwaabamin, Dabesakwe, giizhaagin, pané. (We will see you again, Light Rain Woman, we will love you for all time).