On the Horizon
The LTBB moves toward a bustling summer calendar
By Jillian Manning | June 18, 2022
Summer is a busy season for the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians (LTBB). With the hope of a more normal season following two years of pandemic-related adjustments and cancellations, the LTBB is looking forward to the return of the annual Homecoming Pow Wow, updated summer camp offerings, and the start of a new economic endeavor.
The Odawa Homecoming Pow Wow was last held in 2019, canceled back-to-back years due to COVID. Annette VanDeCar, committee chair for the event, says she is excited about the return of the major event.
“Pow wows are social gatherings which bring together Native American people to sing and dance and to celebrate their cultures and traditions,” she says. “It brings together people of all ages and cultural backgrounds.”
Indeed, the Homecoming Pow Wow is open not just to enrolled Odawa tribal members but to the general public as well. The free event is held over the weekend of August 13 and 14 on the LTBB Pow Wow Grounds in Harbor Springs and features an array of performances and activities. Native craft and food vendors will also be available both days.
“The pow wow begins with a grand entry in which all the dancers enter the dance arena,” VanDeCar explains, setting the scene for the event. “During the grand entry, everyone is asked to stand as the flags are brought into the arena. The flags carried generally include the U.S. flag, tribal flags, prisoners of war flags, and eagle staffs. These are carried by veterans. Following the veterans are other important guests, including tribal chiefs, princesses, and the head dancers. Next in line are the men dancers followed by the women dancers. Once everyone is in the arena, the song ends, and a flag song is sung.”
Though the princesses VanDeCar mentions aren’t next in line for a real throne, they are an important part of pow wow tradition that dates back to the 1930s. Each year, a Miss Odawa Nation and a Junior Miss Odawa Nation are selected. The princesses demonstrate a knowledge of culture and history, public speaking skills, and dance ability. The young women are considered leaders among their peers and “act as bridges between the past and the future.”
Contests for dance, drum, and hand drum also take center stage throughout the weekend, and prizes to the tune of several hundred (dance) and several thousand (drum) encourage stiff competition.
Contest dancing involves various age categories—golden age (50+ years), adult, teen, and junior—and styles. The men and boys participate in traditional, grass, and fancy dances while the women and girls focus on traditional, jingle dress, and fancy. (Read up on each dance style at odawahomecoming.com)
On the drum side, VanDeCar stresses the importance of the performances. “Drumming symbolizes the heartbeat of our people,” she says.
New this year for the 29th annual pow wow are two free family movie nights: Friday, August 12, and Saturday, August 13, near the LTBB Government Building. VanDeCar recommends bringing your own chairs and blankets to get cozy for the to-be-announced films.
To learn more and get the full event schedule, visit odawahomecoming.com.
Just as the pow wow offers a chance for cultural enrichment, so too do the LTBB summer camps impart traditional teachings—and fun—for kids ages 6-18. A dedicated teen camp is also on the agenda, with the opportunity for more intensive cultural projects.
According to Youth Services Director Kristina Dominic, the pandemic actually had a few silver linings for the program. One was creation of drive-through and mailing programs as part of the summer camp offerings, which led to more kids participating from around the state. The second was the purchase of an outdoor tent which has helped shift much of the learning outside, even for the 2022 season.
“I feel like it’s such a good community vibe to have everybody there and just be hanging out outside,” she says.
Dominic adds that one of the greatest assets the camp has is the nature outside their doors. (Or, on nice days, outside the flaps of the tent.) “We try to utilize all the historical areas, the river trail, [and] the waterfront, because the Odawa were water people who utilized all the waterways. … We really appreciate all of the public land areas in the area because it makes our program just that much better.”
Throughout the summer, youth camps address several key topics including cultural activities and traditional knowledge, academic support, and healthy food and movement. Experts from around the region are brought in as teachers, and camp activities can include everything from lacrosse and fishing to beadwork and drumming to photography and painting.
“I always tell everyone we are Anishinaabe or we are Odawa, so everything we do is indigenous,” Dominic explains. “We’re always thinking of ways to mesh culture and language with modern activities or modern art.”
Central to all camp activities is Anishinaabemowin, the language of the Odawa.
“Language [preservation] is huge,” Dominic says, noting that for decades, tribes throughout the U.S. and Canada were discouraged from or punished for speaking their own languages. “We’re really focused on getting those [language] opportunities on a regular basis for the youth so they’re very familiar with it.”
She says that songs and drumming are great ways to learn the language, offering an easy and enjoyable entrypoint for campers through music.
The summer camps and other youth services programs are available thanks to funding provided by the LTBB and the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. More information can be found at ltbbodawa-nsn.gov/departments/youth-services.
Speaking of funding, this spring the LTBB was awarded a $1 million grant to support economic development strategies through the American Rescue Plan (ARP). The welcome chunk of change is part of the Economic Development Administration’s Indigenous Communities program, which allocated $100 million in ARP funding specifically for Indigenous communities that “were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic,” according to the program’s webpage.
The grant is intended for investment in economic growth like starting new businesses, creating new jobs, and diversifying the tribal economy. Hayden Hooper, director for the LTBB Department of Commerce, says the goal of the project is to create “a comprehensive, unified economic diversification and recovery strategy for the tribe.”
Hooper started in her role in 2020, so she was able to see COVID’s effects immediately. “I worked a lot with tribal-citizen-owned businesses and the LTBB-owned businesses. We did some COVID relief for those businesses, so I got to hear a lot about how businesses were impacted.”
The 36-month project entails hiring a coordinator as well as a consultant to create the strategy, and Hooper expects staffing and planning stages to be underway this summer. Though the timeline might seem long to some, Hooper feels confident the work put in will pay off for the entire community.
“We definitely do want to look at not only [LTBB] businesses, but citizen-owned businesses and see what kind of resources and what kind of assistance businesses need. What would it take to bring businesses to tribal lands? What systems do businesses need?
“We’re really excited about this, to kick this off and see what happens over the next three years,” she concludes.