Fond du Lac Follies


The Sawyer Summer language camp was just good. Can you believe that we had 1254 people? Last year 765 registered. This sets a new all time record of people attending the Reservation’s language camp.

In the mornings we concentrated on language instruction from our fluent speakers. We had fluent speakers visiting who helped teach. But before the instruction started, Rick Gresczyk called for a round dance to help wake the people up, to get the blood flowing. There was always much laughter to be heard at Kiwenz Campground.

Each fluent speaker would take over one of the Artist’s Waaginogaan to teach some facet of Ojibwemowin. In my waaginogaan we played Cribbage and counted in Ojibwe.

My brother Vern and I had prepared for the people who wanted to learn how to work with birch bark, basswood for sewing, and how to harvest and bend the green willow sticks. We had about 25 people there to learn so we started by going to a wetlands to pick willow that would be peeled and bent into a U shape for the baskets.

Certain attendees lined up to select birch bark so they could learn how to layout and began to sew up the corners. There was a stream of people lined up to ask what to do next or ask for help in how to do that step.

In the other structures people were learning other parts of the Anishinaabe culture. People were constantly arriving and no one was leaving.

The camp continued on, a round dance here, a dream catcher made there, here someone learned how to make moccasins, over there someone else was learning how to make a cedar flute. Dance bells were made and so were beaded earrings. Zac Earley was demonstrating how he tans hides. Charlie Nahganub was showing how he preserves food by smoking it. He fed visitors beaver, moose, deer and regular old cow meat. We only stopped to visit and play.

One evening we had a mini-powwow, including a potato dance. Then we had canoe races. Once again my son Jim won the rice pole race. All of those years we spent ricing on Perch Lake paid off.

There was a lot of attention paid to the camp by the media. We had TV cameras from Channel 6, and from Native Report. I saw a couple of print people there. Of course, our very own Ivy Vainio was there shooting pictures by the hundreds. Her husband Arne Vainio reprised his role of The Mad Scientist.

I noticed that people came from Germany and Norway, Chicago, and the Circle of Generations folks from Minneapolis. There sure were a lot of skins on the north side of Big Lake.

We have began planning for the sixth annual Ojibwe language camp at Sawyer. The dates selected for next year are June 19, 20, 21, and 22. We are willing to share with other reservations or groups how we planned this successful learning and teaching experience.

**** There is a Marine out there humping along Highway Two from California to Maine. I remembered when we walked with Jim Ironlegs Weaver on that same highway.

This time it is Sgt. Chuck Lewis, USMC, of Ronan, MT. He is calling his effort Walking for the Fallen- USA.

As he came walking down the highway from Floodwood, Minnesota we arranged a Black Bear hotel room for him and a buffet meal.

Once we met up we came to my house to visit. Chuck says he averages about three miles an hour and a usual day gets him twenty miles closer to his goal.

I asked why he was going to such extremes to bring attention to the problems of the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.

He gave one example, a Marine was wounded on June 3rd, medivaced back to the United States on the 4th. After he got home he was dead by the 30th of June.

Chuck is a Vietnam Veteran and knows what coming home to an uncaring nation feels like.

He has been raising money to help the returning veterans. He checked around and some organizations charge up 35% of the money raised for administrative costs. He gives the money he raises to an organization that absorbs the administration costs.

I wished him Godspeed on his long journey.

**** Another Marine, L/Cpl Merlin Raye Allen, died in Vietnam in 1967. His remains were found and identified and his funeral was held at Bayfield High School in June of 2013.

My brother Vern and I went to Bayfield, Wisconsin and paid our respects to that fallen Marine.

L/Cpl Merlin Allen was in a helicopter that was shot down by a rocket near Hue, South Vietnam. Semper Fi Marines, as always.

**** Mii iw

The views expressed in this column belong to the writer alone, they are not meant to represent this newspaper, this Reservation, the United States Marine Corps or Ray Earley. Comments and bingo packs can be sent to FdL Follies, PO Box 16, Sawyer, MN 55780-0016. Email . Facebook too.