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Ancestral homage offered during cultural cleansing at sacred site

Observer Staff

11/5/2003 12:00:00 AM

"Those rocks are natural like that," Eli "Little Elk" Thomas once said of the Sanilac Petroglyphs. "No one carved them. That one up on the Cass River, we call that the Nanabush Rock. The ol' timers said that's the Indian Creation. That's natural... no one carved it. But that rock used to be bigger, it's going down. It's sinkin'. They used to have ceremonies there once a year. No one goes now, that's why it's sinkin'. We should have a ceremony there. No one carved that stone...no one... �cept maybe... Nanabush."

In an effort to reclaim and spiritually protect the site, the Ziibiwing Cultural Society recently organized the second annual Grandmothers' Cleansing in Greenleaf Township.

Boughs of cedar, bundles of sweetgrass and red cloth were used to sweep dust and leaves from the sandstone as it was quenched with water from the Cass River.

"We started this last year with a four day ceremony and it's brought us back together to protect, honor and remember the teachings," said Bonnie Ekdahl, Ziibiwing Cultural Society Director. "We're here because it's giving gifts back to us all the time."

Although many ancestral answers are embedded in the cultural communications, many questions remain.

"Eventually we will put the puzzle together and find the connection," said Brian Corbiere of Peshawbestown during the ceremony. "This is part of us. It's who we are.

"Our ancestors, guided by the Spirit, the Anishnabe stumbled on this. Where do I come from, where do I belong, who am I? We are the seventh fire-an awakening.

"Retracing the footsteps of our forefathers will lead us to the answers. Even the language that has left many communities will return. We know this because the rock tells us."