Centuries ago, the resourceful Ojibwa used their knowledge of plants, hunting and fishing skills to thrive along the waterway between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas, where the Great Lakes Huron and Michigan meet. In the 1600s, the lives of the Anishinaabeg people changed with the arrival of French fur traders and missionaries — most notably, in 1671, Pere Jacques Marquette.
The story of the Straits of Mackinac is told through indoor and outdoor exhibits at the Museum of Ojibwa Culture and Father Marquette Mission Park, at the site of the original mission in St. Ignace.
Museum director Shirley Sorrels said that groups who choose a self-guided visit should allow at least an hour, but recommends two hours with a cultural interpreter on a guided tour of exhibits for an in-depth understanding of the Ojibwa migration to the Great Lakes region, their life ways and sometimes tragic history.
“Our new, powerful exhibit on the residential boarding schools and the generational impact on American Indian families explores an important era in American history, where children were separated from their families and tribal cultures, and were required to conform to Euro-American society,” Sorrels said. “The children were stripped of their American Indian identity, causing generational trauma that is felt to this day.”
Groups of 15 or more will be divided into smaller numbers and alternate visiting the displays housed within a former Catholic church, and outside at the award-winning Clan Park, which explains the ancient Ojibwa system of government.
Sorrels is excited about the Sculpture Park, unveiled in 2017 next to the replica longhouse. “The life size figures depict life in an Anishinaabe Village as it was hundreds of years ago,” she said.
Not everything in the park is new. The gravesite of Father Marquette in the park that bears his name is marked with his statue and a garden — a quiet place to reflect on this historic place.
Groups must book in advance; a two-week notice is requested.
The museum is open seven days from mid-May to the end of October. Be sure to allow time to shop the museum store for authentic American Indian arts and crafts, music, books and gifts.
See handicraft demonstrations, traditional dance and drumming during the Native American Festival each May and Heritage Week in July.
For more information, call 906-643-9161 or visit museumofojibwaculture.net.
Article by Kath Usitalo