Anishinaabe Traditions documentary: Film highlights traditional values
A new documentary featuring the Red Lake Reservation illustrates the values of Anishinaabe traditions and their significance to future generations of Anishinaabe youth.
The film, produced by Darwin Sumner, Migizi Communications and the Minnesota Historical Society, was unveiled publicly Wednesday night at the Seven Clans Casino in Red Lake.
The Anishinaabe Traditions documentary showed the history of the Red Lake Reservation, the most populous reservation in the state with 6,000 residents. Sixty percent of those are younger than 18.
In the film, Darrell Auginaush said young people are not as much in touch with Ojibwe history and traditional ways as their elders are.
“We grow up in two different worlds sometimes, and we get confused,” he said.
The 30-minute documentary covers hunting, fishing and trapping, drum ceremonies, making drums and drumsticks, beading, quillwork, storytelling and other traditional practices, with elders passing along their skills, experiences and insights to young children.
Some of the fishing footage was taken from an episode of “Minnesota Bound” with Ron Schara, who had focused on the fishing club Darwin and Eileen Sumner had started in 2001.
“He wanted to see how the program was run,” Darwin said, adding that the club had a high of 70 children in 2008 and had 56 last year. He expects a big group this summer as well.
“To our knowledge, we’re the only Native American fishing club in the country and the only one to start a fishing league,” he said.
The Sumners started the Red Lake Bass Busters Youth Fishing Club in 2001 and added the Red Lake Youth Fishing League in 2006, with teams in Redby, Red Lake, Little Rock and Ponemah.
“Last year, Darwin took two youth to Arkansas for the High School Fishing World Finals,” Eileen said.
Darwin was named Man of the Year by the Minnesota Bass Federation in 2003.
The Sumners’ clubs, whose members are featured throughout the documentary learning and participating in activities, have expanded to include other activities besides fishing.
“It’s a lifestyle,” Darwin said, noting that the children attend seasonal camps. They go to a winter trapping camp, then a maple sugar camp, followed by a session on beaver trapping. In spring, they spear fish.
“Now we’re into the summer fishing patterns,” he said, adding that they meet two or three days a week and will have a two-day fishing camp soon.
Later this summer, kids will attend a berry camp where they will learn to harvest blueberries and make jams and jellies. A wild rice camp will be held in August or September, followed by grouse and duck hunting, deer hunting and fall trapping.
Kids are also learning about gardening from the Sumners.
“We got some grant money to do more activities with the kids,” said Eileen, a diabetes nurse who said she likes to see the youth participants keep busy and have healthier lifestyles.
“I want the kids to build their self-confidence and self-esteem,” Darwin said. “I just want the kids to be proud. The reason we started the whole youth activities, we wanted to show kids there’s a lot better lifestyle than what they see.”
Fishing is an activity youth can do for their rest of their lives, Eileen pointed out, adding that a lot of the kids don’t have strong male role models; some are raised by single mothers, while some are raised by grandparents.
“(Darwin is) always telling the kids ‘good job,’ ‘I like what you did.’ He’s always encouraging the kids.”
The Little Bears drum group performed two songs during the showing of the film.
Tribal Chairman Floyd “Buck” Jourdain told spectators he was pleased to see the documentary come out. Jourdain said the tribe has concerns about education and health, as well as the preservation of the Ojibwe language for generations to come.
“I come here with my thoughts of my grandmother and grandfather,” said Frank Dickinson, who gave a blessing for the buffet fish dinner. “They always talked the (Ojibwe) language to me as a boy.”
Dickinson said he started using English at 13 when he went to work on a farm. Later, he went into the military, where he did not speak Ojibwe
“It’s a wonderful language,” he said. “It’s a wonderful thing we still have that. There aren’t many of us who have that.”
He prayed in Ojibwe and encouraged others to pray in their own ways.
“That’s the way the Indian way is,” he said. “You pray for everyone around you. Even if they’re gone, you still pray for them.”
The documentary, filmed by four young American Indian filmmakers mentored by John Gwinn at Migizi Communications, still needs some finishing touches, after which the Historical Society will deliver copies to Red Lake for free distribution. It will also be available to view on the Historical Society’s website in about a month through its “Sharing Community Stories” program.
Penn State group
Among the spectators was a group of 31 students from Pennsylvania State University who were on their last day of a cultural immersion experience at area Indian reservations. They spent a week each at the Red Lake and Leech Lake reservations and a few days at the White Earth Reservation.
Professor Bruce Martin, who led the exploration, grew up along Red Lake land in the Northwest Angle and played with Ojibwe children growing up. He teaches the course Exploring Indigenous Ways of Knowing Among the Ojibwe, which is offered through the Interinstitutional Consortium for Indigenous Knowledge at Penn State.
Among the participants are 12 graduate students. The students have a wide range of majors, but Martin said the program draws a lot of environmental, health and sociology students.
Senior Vladimir Londono was surprised the Ojibwe people not only took complete strangers in and taught them their traditional ways of life, but were happy to do so.
“We got that everywhere we went,” he said.
“I think we all grew very spiritually and learned so much about ourselves,” said Jade Eichner, a senior communications major. “The people here are all so wonderful.”
“I feel I have learned a lot about the environment,” said senior nursing major Carolyn Higgins. She added that everyone seems to be very concerned about the environment, even while some of their concerns may be different from one another.
“A lot of us have this overwhelming thought in our mind of how we will describe our experiences,” Londono said, adding that cultural immersion is a great way to learn. “It’s distinct from noses in textbooks.”
Minnesota Historical Society: http://www.mnhs.org/communitystories