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Mount Pleasant facility chronicles Mid-Michigan tribe

Detroit News, The (MI)

May 23, 2004
Author: Associated Press

MOUNT PLEASANT ? After years of planning, the history of the first people of mid-Michigan has been built into the architecture of the new, $10 million Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture and Lifeways.
The center, scheduled to open this weekend, represents the first opportunity for the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe to tell its story in its own words, says Director Bonnie L. Ekdahl.

"We have been here at least 10,000 years," Ekdahl said. "There is nobody like that in this area. This is a historic event for us, for the whole community. It's not my story, it's all of us."

The 32,000-square-foot building is shaped like a crescent moon, and sits near the Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort.

The center is slated to become the heart of tribal cultural studies, Ekdahl said. The showpiece is the 9,000-square-foot permanent exhibit titled "Diba Jimooyung," or "telling our story."

Throughout the center, displays are marked using words from the ancient Anishinabemowin language along with English. Visitors are walked through the history of the Anishinabek? A word tribal members use to refer to themselves.

Their story is told through seven ancient prophecies. The prophecies cover the precolonial period, detail the time of disease and poverty and lead up to the advent of gaming and the resurgence of native culture.

On display are exhibits honoring the tribe's children, the warriors who have fought for the United States and those who have fought for native rights.

The center also includes a research facility where tribal documents, artifacts and archives are housed. It also includes a fire ring and outdoor lodge where ceremonies such as burial rites can be held.

Such an area is particularly important as tribes are still recovering and giving proper burial to ancestors whose bodies were taken for scientific or government research, Ekdahl said.

The center also has a second exhibition space in which curators hope to rotate exhibits once a year.

The inaugural show is from the Caleb E. Calkins Collection. Calkins was a tribe member who left an expansive collection of artifacts to the tribe upon his death.

Ekdahl says the center is designed to be a place where people can come and learn, not to be made to feel guilty about the past.

"The average person is never going to have a conversation with a Native American person," she says. "Many people will learn many lessons if they take the time to come and visit. Native philosophy is a whole different view of the world."
  Caption:
Director Bonnie L. Ekdahl says exhibits in the 32,000-square-foot Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture and Lifeways recount the 10,000-plus years the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe has been in mid-Michigan.
Edition:  No Dot
Section:  Metro
Page:  04B
Index Terms: MICHIGAN; INDIANS; HISTORY; BUILDINGS
Dateline:  MOUNT PLEASANT
Copyright (c) The Detroit News. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Gannett Co., Inc. by NewsBank, inc.
Record Number:  det18965166

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