Hermantown camp offers lessons in Indian culture
Christine Pierson of Duluth was one of about 50 people who came to Buffalo Heart Camp near Hermantown Saturday to expose her 6-year-old son, Tristan, to American Indian culture.
“He needs to know what is available in each community so he can learn to live with others as a whole, not only with nature but with all human beings,” said Pierson, a self-employed health-care educator. “We need to learn alternative ways of surviving in our environment and not solely depend on other people to provide for us.”
American Indians and non-Indians mingled among the sweat lodge, teepee, Navajo hogans and cook fire on the rural property off Highway 194 at Mile Marker 7. Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe assistant field director Mathew Mattson taught people how to make tools out of rocks and identify medicinal plants. People from the Ojibwe, Sioux, Lakota, Nakota and Navajo nations shared traditional food and ceremony.
Buffalo Heart organizer Jolene Silk of Bemidji expects about 75 people to attend the camp, which is open to the public, by the time it wraps up sometime tonight. Silk said her goal is to hold the Buffalo Heart Camp four times a year.
The camp is named after Silk’s late husband, Gary Silk, also known as Buffalo Heart, who led spiritual journeys across the country on horseback starting in the late 1970s and who his widow says is considered a Lakota legend. The Buffalo Heart Camp was conceived by Gary Silk, who died last year.
Before moving to Duluth two years ago, Pierson experienced Navajo powwows when she lived in New Mexico. She said she came to Buffalo Heart to learn about traditional Ojibwe culture. From Mattson, she learned how to identify some edible plants.
“The circle around the bonfire is very welcoming. You can just walk right in and feel very well received,” Pierson said. “People are telling their stories and beating the drum. It is very heartwarming.”
Buffalo Heart Camp organizer Bill Morrison of Duluth said spreading native culture to people who haven't experienced it is one of their main objectives.
“It’s important for people of all races to be educated about each other,” Morrison said. “It’s my hope that we can all walk along the same lines with the same understanding and respect for each other.”
Morrison, a member of the Red Lake Band of Ojibwe, said events like Buffalo Heart help dispel negative stereotypes about Indians.
“It impresses me the most when people are willing to take that step to understand and respect each other. I believe we can overcome the obstacles of racism, prejudice and hate if we understand each other,” Morrison said. “We’ll learn a little more about respect and love. We’ve experienced (white) culture, and it’s time people experience our culture.”
Retired Duluth construction worker Gene Schilling and his wife, Colleen Schilling, experienced traditional Indian culture for the first time. Colleen Schilling said she was intrigued by a ceremonial drum circle, which organizers said represents the heartbeat of life.
“I’ve always been curious about Indian culture. It seems so deep and beautiful,” Colleen Schilling said. “They have a lot of spirituality, bravery and a lot of history.”
Gene Schilling said he has always had a deep respect for American Indian culture. “The Indian culture was here before all the immigrants came to this country. (Indians) have a true understanding of the land,” Schilling said. “There are some people who are missing a lot by not learning about native culture.”