Fond du Lac Follies


I have been watching the television news about the shootings in Colorado.  I am angry. The talking heads keep saying this is the worst shooting in America’s history.

How inane. The Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado had a higher body count. They are saying it doesn’t count because the victims were just Cheyenne.

How nice to have a short memory, I expected better from the networks news people and was disappointed.

**** Fond du Lac Follies motored to Red Cliff in my wife Pat’s grocery getter. Her mini-van cruised on Highway 13, one of my favorite highways in the US of A. The sky, the lake, the trees, the rivers and creeks were all there to remind me that I am Anishinaabe.

This has become an annual trip from the Fond du Lac Reservation to the Red Cliff Reservation. Andy Gokee, Red Cliffer and UWSP representative, keeps inviting us to their annual language camp and we keep showing up.  I guess he likes the way we make birch bark baskets. I like to be around the sound of Ojibwemowin. I think back 60 years ago when I heard a lot more people speaking and telling stories in the language.

We thought we could bring Andy Gokee’s cast iron kettle but when we put it in the grocery getter, the front wheels were barely touching the gravel in the driveway. At that point I decided that we needed a pick-up truck to transport that sap boiling-manoomin parching, heavy hunk of iron.

Once we got to the campground we begin seeing people we knew. Amik was there to bring his knowledge of Ojibwemowin to the people. I saw Nick Hockings sharing his knowledge of the Anishinaabe ways. He demonstrated how to build a fire using a bow.  I saw Frank Montano building cedar flutes. Andy Gokee was sharing his unique way of laughing with the camp as the stories were told. Someone said he laughs like he has just heard a new nasty story. I agreed.

We set up our sunshade shelter and began meeting Anishinaabeg people who wanted to make a birch bark basket. The people had all different levels of expectations and skill in their hands.

The breezy breeze was welcome as it wove through the pine tree trunks of Raspberry Campground.

One camper, Rose Nordin, made a basket last year and wanted to make another this year. It is always good to see someone coming back for more information or practice.

Amik came by as we were setting up and told a couple of laughable stories.

Marvin Defoe delivered some basswood and birch bark and we began showing people how to cut and fold the birch into a basket shape. I heard in the last election that he won his seat on the tribal council by one vote. I told him it was me that voted for him.

We spent the days cutting, shaping and sewing pieces of birch bark.

After we were done for the day we checked into the Legendary Waters Hotel and Casino. I was happy to see one of Marvin Defore’s birch bark canoes as a centerpiece in the hotel lobby. I remember when the previous casino used one of his canoes as a salad bar. I believe this display was more respectful of his work.

**** The annual veteran’s powwow was held on the shores of Big Lake near Mashkawisen.

I liked how the clean-up crew walked the grounds picking up even the smallest pieces of trash.

We set up our sun shelter where we could watch people walk by in both directions. It was like watching a wide screen TV.

Our sign announcing free coffee and ice water was displayed. On Saturday the sun seemed to be hotter and we relaxed in the shade. We watched the veterans come in and get a cup of coffee or reach through the melting ice to grab a bottle of water.

Through the moccasin telegraph I heard we were going to have a visit from someone who was awarded the Medal Of Honor. He never showed.

The Fond du Lac veterans were given gifts by the Rez as they have in years past. The tribal council members shook hands and thanked the veterans for their service.