Nick Hockings, Ojibwe artist, human rights activist, and cultural consultant, walked on to the spirit world on November 30, 2012 in his home in Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin. He was an educator of youth and adults for over 24 years. He was born in Hayward, Wisconsin on May 7, 1942 and was a tribal member of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe Indians.
His vision was to teach world peace and understanding through interpreting Native ways, especially the Ojibwe culture. One means of accomplishing this was to establish a recreated Ojibwe village, named Waswagoning (the place where they spear fish by torch light). Along with his wife Charlotte, they built an educational facility on the reservation in 1994 designed to give visitors authentic cultural experiences. Visitors could tour summer and winter villages complete with wigwams and cultural artifacts of the 1600s. They could play Native games, view a birch bark canoe, ricing pit, smoking racks, food caches, maple sugaring, arrow-makers lodge, several kinds of animal traps, and sites for rites of passage ceremonies. Thousands of visitors benefited from this tour and photographers have recorded many still and video images. It was the location for educational videos that appeared on television in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Canada.
Nick was instrumental in leading a dance troupe known as Blue Winds Dancing for the past five years. He and his daughter revived a weekly powwow in the Indian Bowl of Lac du Flambeau. Nick was a lead dancer in the Call for Peace drum and dance group that presented locally and in Russia, Germany, Egypt, Puerto Rico, France, and Italy.
Nick taught thousands of elementary and secondary school students as well as undergraduate and graduate students at Waswagoning and in communities around the state and Midwest. College interns lived and studied in residence for up to three weeks from Illinois institutions such as Rock Valley College, College of Dupage, Northern Illinois University, and Illinois State University. Wisconsin Indian studies students from Northland College were frequent visitors. Each year since its inception, he has set up a teaching Ojibwe village at the Indian Summer Festival in Milwaukee and touched thousands with his dances, stories, and fire-making skills. Nick’s influence as a teacher and ceremonial leader was widespread and impactful.
Nick received many awards and honors throughout his career. He was nominated for the Wisconsin Equal Rights Citizen of the Year in 1991 and given the Race Unity Award in Rockford in 1992. He was selected as a consultant for the Time-Life book, The People of the Lakes in 1994. In 1998, Nick received Ogitchidaa status and was presented with an Ogitchidaa Drum at Hannahville Potowatomi Midewewin ceremonies. Along with his wife, Nick was awarded an Emmy for artistic design of a PBS video series, “Waasa-Inaabidaa – We Look In All Directions.” Rand McNally chose Waswagoning Village as the “Best of the Road Editor’s Pick” in 2009. Waswagoning also attained the Wisconsin Historical Preservation Award.
Nick always spoke out for justice, fairness, and human rights. He was active in the Wisconsin fish spearing controversy, the sports mascot issue, and always defended tribal treaty rights and human dignity. He was an advocate for restorative justice and negotiated with law enforcement to combat prejudice when five young non-Indian men burned his Ojibwe village. Nick had many talents and he was my hero, mentor, teacher, guide, and friend for 17 years. I am richer for knowing him.
See Nick speak about Ojibwe culture: