Fond du Lac Follies motored to the Black Bear Casino to eat. My wife Pat was happy because she didn’t feel like cooking so we ate at the buffet. While we were there we met Rick and Randy Gresczyk, and a bit later we were joined by Helen Roy and David Fuhst. Helen told us she was in town to perform at the Black Bear Casino. We became part of her audience. She sang songs in Ojibwe.
**** The 1st Annual Ojibwe language immersion camp was excellent. My son Aaron and godson Zac built one waaginogan for shelter from the rain and sun. My son Jim built the second one. At least a dozen campers joined in building the teaching lodge. The camp was held on the north end of Big Lake in Sawyer. We could see eagles flying over the doings,
My wife Patricia put up her food structure and fed the multitudes three meals a day. One camper said he wouldn’t come back next year if Pat wasn’t the cook. She smiled at the compliment. Veronica Smith and Marky Dwyer worked with her. Some of the campers shared their food and helped out with the cooking.
The idea of having an immersion camp started over a game of Scrabble. Rick Gresczyk, my wife Patricia and I played the game late into the night. We talked about the need for a camp, the hard part was selecting the dates to hold the camp. Once we decided, Rick recruited fluent Ojibwe speakers. Gordon Jourdain of Lac La Croix, Nancy Jones of Ontario and her son Dan Jones, and Randy Gresczyk came to help our camp. When Nancy Jones heard about the camp she wanted to attend. She likes teaching the Ojibwe language and taught campers how to make fry bread on a stick over an open fire, among other things.
Dennis Jones stopped by for a visit, as did Niib. We were rich with fluent speakers. I asked the Reservation Business Committee for assistance and they agreed to give the fluent speakers a stipend. The RBC asked various divisions of the tribal government to help. Rez DNR provided canoes to be used in the canoe race, the game wardens came to be the safety boat during the race. The library gave plates, cups, and bowls for the campers to use. The support from the Rez was very much appreciated.
Campers began arriving Sunday evening, on Monday we registered 84 humans, on Tuesday it was 144, and Wednesday we had 43. I think the canoe races thrilled a lot of folks. There were seven canoes. My son Matthew coordinated the race and set out his buoys. We laughed muchly in Ojibwe.
As for me, I showed the campers how to work with birch bark, basswood and green willow to make a basket. It was good to have the camp when the birch bark was peeling easily. Rick Gresczyk taught campers how to sing songs in Ojibwe. He also organized the games. One game was Simon Says, the game was played using Ojibwe commands.
The media was there, Channel 6, the Duluth newspaper and an indie film crew. The film makers are going to make a ten minute documentary and present it to the RBC. Three RBC members joined us during the talking circle in one of the teaching lodges. Chairwoman Karen Diver, Wally Dupuis and Sandy Shabiash spoke a few words. I felt proud when Sandy Shabiash, the Sawyer representative introduced herself in Ojibwe. Randy brought out his drum and the RBC members joined us in circling the singers.
At the talking circle, some of the campers talked about what the experience meant to them. The positive comments far outweighed the negative ones. One negative comment was the event was too short. Another one was we could have gotten the information out earlier. Some campers said it was such a nice spot to hold the camp. Others were glad it was a family event. The laughter of the children could be heard almost constantly as they played on the swings. It felt good to hear children teaching each other how to pronounce new words. Another comment was made about how everyone was made to feel welcome at the doings. Others wanted to know how they could help next year.
After the camp ended the campers formed a long line and walked through the campground picking up trash. We also talked about planning for the 2nd Annual language immersion camp here in Sawyer. One suggestion was to have the campers bring their own cups, plates and bowls so we can cut down on the use of Styrofoam. The planning for the Second Annual Ojibwe immersion camp has begun. We learned and will make it better next year.
Mii sa iw.