Monday, April 27, 2009

A Colorful Culture: Reviving Native Traditions

A Colorful Culture: Reviving Native Traditions
By Sarah A. Miller

Many of Mount Pleasant, Michigan’s 23,000 residents live only a few miles from a world completely different from their own unique with its own history, people and traditions. Many of them don’t even realize that they live right next to a foreign country—the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Nation.

The Saginaw Chippewa Isabella Reservation is home to over 3,000 tribal members. In the United States there are 3.3 million federally recognized Native Americans. As time has passed, these people have been forced to adapt to the modern world.

“I think one of the hardest struggles when you are a youth growing up is how do you find that balance of knowing your culture and really having that strong identity, but learning how to thrive in the 21st century,” said Judy Pamp, Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture & Lifeways assistant director.

The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe has its own private school for kindergarten through the sixth grade; however, the students must then finish their schooling at public school. Both Pamp and LeeAnn Ruffino, cultural instructor at the Seventh Generation/Elijah Elk Cultural Center say that it is a difficult transition.

“Being on the reservation feels a lot safer, it’s more comfortable. It was your family, it was everyone you knew. When you live in town, like when I was younger growing up, it was very scary. It was very scary to be in town, it was very scary to be in the schools because you were not on the reservation. You didn’t get to go to school with all the other kids. They usually singled you out... You felt alienated,” Ruffino said.

Because city life is not for everyone, the Tribe maintains many institutions of its own for Tribal members to feel welcome and at home.

The Ziibiwing Center offers language immersion classes, traditional dance classes and special events. The Seventh Generation/Elijah Elk Cultural Center offers spiritual services, woodworking, traditional cooking and more. The language classes are very important because there is currently a Native language crisis. As of right now, only four elders can speak Anishnabemowin fluently.

“By learning your culture, your language, the history and the arts you know that you are uniquely Anishnabe. We are unique because of those teachings,” Pamp said.

Also, there is a casino—a subject both good and bad for Native people. The casino brings in a lot of profit and a lot of jobs for people on the reservation. Colleen Green, Director of Native American Programs at Central Michigan University said that it also brings in more misconceptions about Native people.

Misconceptions about Native peoples is a big problem. Ruffino said that when she goes into schools to talk about Native culture often hears rude or ignorant comments from children. She says that it is not their fault because they only know what their parents tell them. Pamp reminds people that the problem goes both ways. She says that it is a two-sided road. Americans may complain that the Natives never come into town, never become Americanized or modernized, but she points out that those people never come to the reservation and never experience Native culture. She says that reservations are the only nations Americans can travel to without a passport, and they are always welcome to visit.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

521 Final Project: Native American Culture

This is it. I thought this project was going down the dumpsters, but at the last minute I pulled it all together, and I don't think it's that bad. I apologize for bad audio with my interviews from LeeAnn Ruffino. That was due to some microphone malfunction.

I really enjoyed making this. One of my goals while attending school here was to meet people from the tribe and learn about Native culture. Like I said, I waited until the last minute to do this, but wow, this last minute has been fun. I've really learned a lot, and I've got to experience some cool things. The tribe here really has a lot to offer, especially with the Ziibiwing museum programs and the Elijah Elk cultural center. It's too bad more people don't take the time to learn about life on the reservation. Conversely, it's too bad many of the people on the reservation don't reach out to everyone in the city.

Native American Culture: Intro (revised) from Sarah A. Miller on Vimeo.

Native American Culture: Beadwork from Sarah A. Miller on Vimeo.

Native American Culture: Language (revised) from Sarah A. Miller on Vimeo.

Native American Culture: On the Reservation from Sarah A. Miller on Vimeo.

Native American Culture: Revival from Sarah A. Miller on Vimeo.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Bad Technology, Good Interview.

I seem to be having several technical issues this weekend with both Sony AND Canon camcorders. My final project for JRN 521 is due Monday, but thanks to procrastination and unforeseen circumstances, I will not have it finished by then.

Thursday, I used a Sony camcorder and recorded two PERFECT interviews for my video. I got exactly what I needed to make it a compelling, interesting piece...

...but the audio sucks. Something was wrong with the microphone connection (since I'm also an audio engineer, you'd think I could have figured it out!). Anyway, so the audio sounds like poop, and I don't think I can use it.

Also, I lost the mic windscreen, so there goes another check to the Journalism department from me.

Then, yesterday I shot some sweet cutaway footage, but I can't capture it, and that's not cool either.

In good news, I listened through all of my bad audio and typed out the conversation from the great interview I had with LeeAnn Ruffino, a cultural instructor at the Seventh Generation/Elijah Elk Cultural Center over on the Isabella Reservation.

here it is! I'm going to try to redo it...but the second time is never as good as the first!

How is Native American Culture today different from the past?

“Like any Tribal people, we grow, we adapt. Everything kind of evolves. Sometimes things are lost, and like any Tribal people we want to hold on to some of those things because it gives everybody a direction, and it gives you a sense of identity—who you are because you need to know. You need to know that drums are sacred, and that’s part of our culture. They’ve been in our culture in our past, and they still are here. Now they are kind of coming back. A lot of those things were lost, but it was mostly because of oppression, things being taken away and outlawed, so people were scared to do that. It’s coming back. I think it’s just an evolving thing that’s happening right now. But I think it’s more modern. I don’t think we can be the way it used to be in the past. It’s definitely a lot different. Just bringing back the things that make you feel distinct I think is important, and that’s kind of what we are trying to do in the modern world. We put plastic over the wigwams outside. We adapt. We’re kind of like people who are survivors. Are people are survivors, we’ve adapted.”

What is the difference between living on the reservation and living off of it?

“Being on the reservation feels a lot safer, it’s more comfortable. It was your family, it was everyone you knew. When you live in town, like when I was younger growing up, it was very scary. It was very scary to be in town, it was very scary to be in the schools because you were not on the reservation. You didn’t get to go to school with all the other kids. They usually singled you out... You felt alienated. Me and my friend were the only Indians in the school. They made a big production at Thanksgiving. They gave us plastic drums. I never really understood that, and I didn’t like that feeling of being singled out. Now that I’m older I understand that they just don’t know; they just don’t understand what it means. They don’t understand the history. It’s not their fault. There’s nothing in history books that really is truthful. Being on the reservation…you feel more proud of yourself and who you are, and that’s why I believe the school has been helping our kids a lot at the Saginaw Chippewa Academy. That’s part of their curriculum, learning where they came from their identity as far as their traditions, crafts, all kinds of stuff that is true to what the past was, and they learn that, and they’re proud of that. It’s the language they’re learning, it’s a big thing. They learn the Ojibwe language. They’re really good. It’s amazing to me because it’s a really hard language to understand. They’re proud, they’re very proud, and I think they excel when they are proud.”

“I’ve lived here all my life on this reservation, so I’ve seen a lot of different things. I’ve seen a lot of changes, and I think they’re for the better. It’s hard to change people who are really older and set in their ways, but I think it’s good that we are working through the children, talking to them and giving them our knowledge as far as what we do and what we are about.”

“Seventh Generation is a good program for that because we go into the schools and talk to the kids. We always bring a little craft—not something cheesy though. There’s a lot of people that proclaim to be Native or something, but they’re not, and they’ll do something cheesy and they don’t really know what it means. We try to do something really nice. We’ll use a piece of Cedar and talk about spirit. There’s spirit inside of trees, you know, just make them understand. I think a lot of people have a hard time understanding, but it we give them the information on their level, then we can make them understand that there is a connectedness that we have as people, we all share actually. But Native Americans, I think more that it was such a part of their life in the past that it seemed more pronounced. I think it’s getting better with the younger kids. When we work with the younger kids, a lot of them make a lot of awful comments. They don’t mean to, and we always address it. A lot of them will say, “Oh, don’t you Indians live out in the woods in your teepees?” Stuff like that. It’s amazing to think that people still think that. It’s just their parents talking to them and telling them things. It’s just crazy, I take for granted that people really don’t understand. I think especially with our gaming industry around here people pay more attention now just because of the money flowing in from the casino. It’s a good thing and a bad thing at the same time because now it puts up a new reason to get mad about Natives. Seventh Generation is doing a good thing. I’m proud to work here, to be able to teach people that we’re all human, we’re all equal. At Seventh Generation we believe that all beliefs are sacred. All beliefs are equal. Nobody is better than anybody else. “

Native American Culture: Language

Native Culture: Language from Sarah A. Miller on Vimeo.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Threads: Restitched!

This is the 2nd version of my Threads video for my JRN521 class at Central Michigan University. I took some advice from others and changed it up. I've added in a lot more ambient sounds, added more shot variety, and eliminated shots that were poor in quality or were shaky.

I think it's better... ?

>>>>>>here's a link to it on Vimeo where it's bigger and better quality

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Threads: The Video! (JRN 521 Assignment 4)

After editing literally all day, it is done! Please leave comments!

Threads: Showtime!

Here are some pics from the actual show last night. It was a lot harder to get good shots with the lights down and a full audience. Straight-on shots didn't look very good, so I experimented with the lighting from the back and sides of the stage. I like it.




Friday, April 3, 2009


Some photos from a run-through of Threads 2009, the annual student fashion and design show!