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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Learning Tradition at Great Lakes Traditional Arts Gathering

By John Barecki

Two weeks ago my now-fiance and I experienced the Great Lakes Traditional Arts Gathering (GLTAG) on Drummond Island on the east side of the upper peninsula. This program has been going on for close to 20 years in the hopes of keeping traditional teachings alive. In past years, the event was held on Bois Blanc Island just east of the Mackinaw bridge. Just this year they have acquired the land on Drummond and will be there for at least five years.

If you go to the event's website, it reads "Celebrating our Region’s Rich Heritage through Meaningful Learning Experiences," and if you truly immerse yourself in this world you will come away with an adventure of a lifetime. Besides being on one of our beautiful islands of the Great Lakes, you have your pick of classes specializing in one of the following: finding and identifying food and medicine in the plants around you; historic technology and crafts; metal, fiber and textile arts; language and oral traditions (this year's native tongue was of the Anishinaabe people). There are also classes in using nature as your building materials (for birch bark canoes, for example), wilderness navigation and weather prediction, and an introduction to falconry, just to name a few.

The program lasts four days and they pack in a lot information. Each class could easily take up the entire day, but the instructors take in the allotted people and allow anyone to sit in and listen. The island itself is gorgeous and very easy to navigate, with a portion of Alvar landscape to the north. Alvar is a type of landscape made up of limestone plains and is only found in four other areas on the planet; it supports a handful of plant species that only exists there. While in the area, we tracked down the fossil ledges on the lakeshore which do in fact hold fossils of corals and other lifeforms from another time a breathtaking sight. This is where I proposed. [Editor's note: Congratulations, John and Rachael!]

Overall the things we experienced, the people we met, and the new friends we made are enough to make us participants for life. I can fully recommend this to anyone that has any interest in where we came from as a people and how we can better ourselves in something meaningful.

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