After holding its traditional pow wow this month, the American Indian Movement (AIM) of Michigan is poised to organize a bigger gathering next year to coincide with the 250th anniversary of Chief Pontiac’s call for a council along the Ecorse River.
The historical significance of the event has not been lost to the City of Lincoln Park that asked AIM to be a partner in the weeklong event planned for April 20 to April 28, 2013.
“We said yes. So for next year, instead of having the pow wow in August, we will have it in April,” said Helen Wolfe, co-organizer of the AIM Michigan pow wow.
This year’s pow wow, August 11-12, kicked off with a Canoe Border Crossing from metro Detroit area to Windsor, Ontario, Canada on August 10, Friday. It was followed by the two-day “Honoring Our Traditions Pow Wow” at Lincoln Park, Michigan’s Council Point Park.
Wolfe, who organizes the event with Bryan Halfday, chairman of the board for AIM of Michigan, said they expect to hold their event for three days again next year similar to what they have just done.
“It’s a little bit too early to say what will change. It depends on what we can afford,” she said, adding that AIM Michigan-a local chapter-is a non-profit group and relies on donations from volunteers and organizers.
“We are working with the historical commissions of Lincoln Park and the downriver area,” said Wolfe, adding that the City of Lincoln Park will finance most of the activities during the week, except for their three-day pow wow event.
“There is a proposal to have a statue of Chief Pontiac-wooden or stone carving-to be done by a Native American for this commemoration,” said Wolfe.
There is currently a boulder with a plaque recognizing Chief Pontiac’s historical role in Michigan at Council Point Park that was put in 50 years ago, she added.
Chief Pontiac, head of the Ottawa tribe, is known for the Pontiac War that was launched in 1763 after he called on other tribes to retake the Great Lakes area from the British.
AIM, through its pow wows, has been educating the local community of the rich cultural heritage of the original inhabitants of the area and is an advocate of human rights. One of its missions is to increase awareness about aboriginal treaty rights.
Wolfe said the recent U.S.-Canada river crossing relates to the Jay Treaty, ratified 1796, when American statesman John Jay went to England and averted the threat of a war. It is significant because it gives Natives the right to freely pass and re-pass the border.
“This is an exercise of the rights,” said Wolfe of the kick-off event. “If you don’t exercise your right, you lose them.”
The gathering by the river, said an AIM event information, is the first ever USA-Canada Canoe Border Crossing as a peaceful demonstration of the rights stated and found in the Jay Treaty.
About 25 people crossed Canada in about eight canoes for a one-mile round trip. There were three round trips made from Belle Isle, near the U.S. Coast Guard station to Peace Fountain in Windsor, Ontario.
An estimated 250 people gathered to see the canoes cross the two countries, with 100 people on the Belle Isle and 250 on the Windsor side, said Wolfe. On Saturday, the traditional and spiritual pow wow began with a grand entry.
An estimated 1,500 people came for story telling, drums, American Indian food and crafts and a variety of dancing activities-intertribal, grass, traditional, fancy, two-step, round, spot and candy dancing for children.
Participants came from Detroit and surrounding areas, Ontario and Alabama. Gordon Sand was emcee, Mark Davis, arena director; Joe Jacobs, head male dancer; Joan Jacobs, head female dancer; All Nations Veterans, color guard and security; Wayne Hardwick, head veteran; Red Sun Singers, host drum; and Blue Lake and Buzzing Eagle, invited drums.