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'Telling Our Story' reclaims tribe history

Grand Rapids Press, The (MI)
June 18, 2006
Author: Levi Rickert / The Grand Rapids Press


When I was a boy, two frequent relatives in my grandparents' home were my grandfather, Levi Whitepigeon's sister and husband, Lena and Jim Strong. They would come to visit on their way to and from the Isabella Indian Reservation in Mount Pleasant. They would stop on their way out West, their car trunk was filled with various sizes and colors of Indian black-ash baskets that they had made to sell along their journey.
It seemed my grandparents were always ready to serve a freshly brewed pot of coffee to their guests. I would listen to the conversations between my grandparents and the relatives from Mt. Pleasant. The Strongs' conversations were filled with soft and caring words, packed with many smiles and much laughter.

True to his American Indian heritage, Jim Strong frequently wore Indian-beaded neckties. He was a tall and quiet man. True to her religious beliefs, Aunt Lena always wore dresses, never slacks. They were humble people, who were thoughtful and deliberate with each word they spoke.

They lived simple lives, or so I thought.

History books are written to teach us what we do not already know. This was the case when I read "Diba Jimooyung: Telling Our Story," the tribal history of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan. The tribe is 90 miles northeast of Grand Rapids. In this history book, I discovered my late great-uncle, Jim Strong, served as tribal chief during two administrations in the decade before my birth.

Beyond personal family reasons, I found reading "Diba Jimooyung: Telling Our Story" gratifying because it was written by American Indians who are educated and serve on the staff at the tribe's museum, Ziibiwing Center. The staff cares about appropriating a proper perspective on their tribal history, and the book serves as a way for the tribe to reclaim its history. The title of the book is named for a permanent exhibit at the Ziibiwing Center.

The book covers the history of the tribe from pre-European contact through current history. The Saginaw Chippewa Tribe owns and operates the Soaring Eagle Casino. Given its proximity to Detroit, Grand Rapids and other larger cities, the casino is one of the busiest and successful Indian casinos in America.

"Diba Jimooyung: Telling Our Story" is filled with pictures, maps and a narrative that tells of a people who have always refused to give up the teachings of their ancestors.

On a trip to the reservation, I stopped and lingered by a display case located in the Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort to admire with fondness a picture of my Aunt Lena smiling as she holds a piece of Indian fry bread.

Just as the picture did, "Diba Jimooyun: Telling Our Story" allowed me to reclaim a part of my history. In the case of the book, I discovered something I did not know.
Edition:  All Editions
Section:  Books
Page:  J8

Index Terms: Book; Review
Copyright, 2006, The Grand Rapids Press. All Rights Reserved. Used by NewsBank with Permission.
Record Number:  0490094715