When Frankie mentioned going over to St. Ignace last weekend for the Rendezvous at the Straits Powwow, I never imagined how much I was going to enjoy it. To be truthful, I was looking forward most to those fry bread tacos she told me about. “They’re just like regular tacos, but with fry bread taking the place of the usual thin shell,” Frankie explained.
“Sounds like my Mama’s lacy cornbread to me,” I said. And that made me very hungry.
When we arrived, it was to a large clearing at the Father Marquette Memorial site on an absolutely gorgeous Michigan August afternoon. As with most festival events, there were arts and crafts tents, food tents, and a large group of people who seemed to be having a grand time. This event was different though. Instead of celebrating a holiday or a special event, this gathering was in celebration of the Native American history and culture in this area. Most participating were members of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, and we saw several friends from the Island who we knew carried that proud heritage.
What was immediately different was the circle of chairs set around a large grassy area, with a covered shelter in the middle. From the time we arrived around 1:30 until we left around 4:00, that area was filled with dancers celebrating their heritage and accompanied by Native drummers and singers seated under the shelter. The rhythm of those drums seemed to never cease, and when at last Frankie and I sat down for the last hour to enjoy the dancers, I really began to understand the concept that to the Native American, to dance is to pray.
When we arrived we immediately noticed the large crowd surrounding the dancing arena.
This craft tent, from Northern Trading out of Pickford, MI, carried beautifully made hats, gloves, moccasins, and leather goods. You could choose from fox, raccoon, muskrat, mink, otter, opossum, bobcat, beaver, coyote, and deer hide.
Frankie - checking out some of the awesome shirts, individually painted, dyed, or beaded by hand.
Nearly every tent held dream catchers, and the selection of styles, designs and colors was unbelievable.
The sign says it all. Lots of choices, but I went for the fry bread tacos. Yummy . . . and huge!
The craftsmanship of some of the exhibitors was remarkable - like this set of antlers . . .
. . . that had become an eagle.
After we had eaten, we continued our walk through the craft tents, but the longer we strolled, the more we were drawn to what was happening in the arena. From the sideline, we stood and watched as Native American women danced within the circle.
Each participant makes the regalia they wear to dance. It's part of the tradition.
I never saw this lady dance, but her dress was beautiful.
Soon the music changed, and young girls entered the arena for a Ribbon Dance. This was a much faster pace, and the girls all wore shawls that had been adorned by brightly colored ribbons. I'll let these next few photos speak for themselves.
By this time, we had found a spot to sit and watch.
As we settled in, the announcer called for the Fancy Men Dancers to come into the arena. These were young men who had asked for a faster-paced dance, and their regalia moved and danced to the rhythms of the drums and the songs from the singers who sat under the shelter. Again, no captions are needed for these next photos.
After watching these men dance for 30 minutes, Frankie and I were tired to the bone - and we hadn't moved a muscle.
We piled onto the back of the tram to the parking lot, and our last view was riding backwards from the powwow grounds.
This was a three-day event, and we attended the second day. I’d love to go back next year – thanks, Frankie, for asking me along!