Wednesday 4, 2009
MARQUETTE—A premiere of the new one-hour documentary, Ojibwe Birch Bark Wigwam, will be held on Friday, March 13, at Northern Michigan University. The showing is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Jamrich Hall 102. The public is invited and donations are encouraged.

The documentary follows Nick Hockings, an acclaimed Ojibwe cultural educator from Lac du Flambeau, Wis., as he joins a group of primarily elderly Euro-Americans and shows them how to build an authentic birch bark wigwam using forest resources. Hands-on techniques learned over centuries are fused with Ojibwe cultural teachings and woven in a practical yet spiritual ecology of the northern hardwood forest.

“All trees are sacred, but birch to me is a little more,” said Marvin Defoe, a Red Lake Ojibwe. “Wigwams are made with birch bark; we use that to protect our families. We use our canoes to travel on the water. It is a major mode of transportation. We make our makaks, or baskets, to hold and protect our rice. You can even cook in birch bark. There are many uses. But we don’t own that. We are asking the spirits to use that birch bark.”

Viewers will see the making of an offering to the forest spirits before gathering its bounty, peeling birch bark and puncturing holes with a deer bone awl, separating the strands of basswood inner bark for twine and making pine pitch roofing tar. A major theme of the program is intercultural interaction and the appreciation white European-American volunteers have for traditional Ojibwe survival knowledge.

Ojibwe Birch Bark Wigwam is the latest documentary from NMU sociology professor and filmmaker Michael Loukinen, with editing by Grant Guston of NMU instructional media services. Production and post-production was supported by two grants from the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs.

The campus premiere is part of the U.P. Folklife Festival. It is sponsored by the NMU Anthropology Club and the Native American Student Association.                 

Kristi Evans
News Director