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Telling their story -

Saginaw Chippewa's to open cultural center and museum


Grand Rapids Press, The (MI)
May 19, 2004
Author: Bryce T. Hoffman / Grand Rapids Press News Service

MOUNT PLEASANT -- You enter from the east because that is the tradition of an Anishinabe teaching lodge.
The front door of the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture and Lifeways seems to open from beneath a giant white wigwam. A pitch-and-bark canoe rests near the courtesy wheelchairs. The tile floor is designed to resemble the bead work of a bandolier bag.

Opportunities to explore the history of the first people of mid-Michigan are built into the architecture -- down to the copper-colored door handles that honor the tribe's use of the metal in tools and in ceremonies, Director Bonnie Ekdahl said.

The $10 million Ziibiwing Center opens Saturday. It represents the first opportunity for the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe to tell its story in its own words.

"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 at the end of a long and winding driveway south of the Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort. It will 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." Every part of the center uses words from the ancient Anishinabemowin language along with English.

It walks visitors through the history of the Anishinabek -- a word tribal members use to refer to themselves. Seven prophecies from ancient times tell the history of the people, from pre-colonization through the devastating time of disease, land loss and poverty, the advent of gaming and a resurgence of native culture. Exhibits honor the children of the tribe, warriors who have fought for the United States and those who have fought for native rights.

A fire ring and lodge outdoors will provide a place for teaching and ceremonies, including burial rites for the dead. Tribes still are recovering and giving proper burial to ancestors whose bodies were taken as "specimens" for scientific or government research, Ekdahl said.

Remains are returned to tribes under the Native American Graves and Protection Act.

The center has a second exhibition space curators hope to change once a year. The opening show is from the Caleb E. Calkins Collection. The tribal member left an expansive collection of artifacts to the tribe upon his death.

The Ziibiwing Center also has the Meshtoonigewinoong (place where we trade at) or gift shop; the Shangewigamig (place where you get nourished) or cafe and the Giigidiwigamig (place where discussion occurs) or meeting rooms.

Profits from the Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort paid for its construction, but Ekdahl said the tribe intends to run the center as a self-supporting enterprise.

Ziibiwing means "place by the river." Ekdahl said the center is a place to learn, not a place where people are blamed or made to feel guilty.
Edition:  All Editions
Section:  State
Page:  B5
Index Terms: Building; Group
Copyright, 2004, The Grand Rapids Press. All Rights Reserved. Used by NewsBank with Permission.
Record Number:  0452523375

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