Sunday, August 26, 2007

Lake Superior Circle Tour -- Day 23

Getting up and checking out of our last motel on the last day of our trip was hard. Very hard. I did not want to go.

We made it to the Dog Patch for breakfast that morning and made a decision to visit Sand Point Beach one more time before we headed home.

The weather was warm, absolutely perfect, and when we got to the beach we decided to get wet! The sand bar is so inviting because you can walk safely in ankle-deep water far into the beach's waters. It was wonderful! The water was clear and warm, the sand was soft, and I knew in my heart of hearts that this was the best beach in the world. We stayed for quite a while, until the bugs started biting me and I ran for the car. B.E. got bit by some kind of bug that was about the size of a silver-dollar coin. It looked like a gigantic fly, the biggest I'd ever seen, and B.E. was none too pleased with it biting him, so we both got in the car and were almost content to leave. It was still hard. It's just so wonderful there.

On the way out of the U.P., we stopped again at Rapid River Falls, which was anything but rapid, and really didn't qualify as a river either.

Just outside of the entrance for Rapid River Falls was a large sign on the side of the road announcing a pow-wow, and beneath it said that the public was welcome to attend.

Well, I didn't even ask!

I said, "We're going to a pow-wow!" And it's good that I didn't ask because B.E. was not feeling too comfortable intruding on such an event.

We drove on the dirt path into the woods. I was a little anxious, not knowing what to expect, but then we saw the signs that made us feel more welcome.

Photo taken by Boyfriend Extraordinaire

Photo taken by Boyfriend Extraordinaire

It was a small pow-wow, but there were hundreds of vehicles, so it appeared we were witness to a slower time with many people braking from the festivities.

There were vendors arranged in a circular pattern, and at the center of the ring of vendors was an arena and bleachers for people to watch what was going on in the arena. We could hear the MC talking about upcoming events and I wandered over to check out some of the products for sale. There were woven rugs and pouches, moccasins, jewelry, weapons and various adornments that were made from animal parts, and a variety of dream-catchers as well as food, including Indian tacos and Indian bread, which we sampled in Ashland, Wisconsin at a roadside vendor's cart.

I asked a woman at a jewelry stand if it was okay to take pictures or if there were any kinds of disrespectful behavior I should know about before I offended anyone, and she explained that we should just feel comfortable to walk around, enjoy the show, and taking pictures was allowed except during certain ceremonies, which the MC would announce before it began. So, B.E. and I grabbed a front-row seat in the bleachers and watched, absolutely amazed and thoroughly moved to be a witness to a real pow-wow, which I think neither of us ever dared dream we'd see.

The costumes were elaborate and absolutely stunning. We watched groups in fancy dress and in street clothes dance around the arena to the music of live Indian singers beating drums in the center of the arena.

Photo taken by Boyfriend Extraordinaire

I remember the two-step was one of the dances and another was a blanket dance. The blanket dance was announced and the MC asked the men to remove their hats and to observe the rule against taking any pictures. It was a very somber event held in memory of a recently deceased member. The night before, a man had died of a heart attack very suddenly in the middle of the festivities and participants sadly and slowly danced around the arena holding a blanket, taking up a collection for the deceased man's wife so she could afford to get back home. The widow sobbed as she was led round and round the arena. The sad song played and dancers behind the widow were slowly tapping their feet to the ground as they followed her around. It was so very sad.

After the blanket dance, they took a small break and a return to the happier festivities was welcomed back.

People of all ages took part and wore the most beautiful outfits.

Photo taken by Boyfriend Extraordinaire

Photo taken by Boyfriend Extraordinaire

And we were not the whitest palefaces in the bunch, much to our surprise.

Photo taken by Boyfriend Extraordinaire

My favorite part was when a man wearing a bearskin came out with weapons in hand, and did his bear-like dance. That was the coolest!

Photo taken by Boyfriend Extraordinaire

B.E. snapped this picture of a woman in very traditional dress using a digital camera to take pictures as well. It seemed surreal as old ways and new ways merged.

Photo taken by Boyfriend Extraordinaire

I had to laugh when I heard her yell to one of the participants that she'd email the photo to her. It just seemed so... out of place!

Someone pointed out to me that the flags surrounding the arena were from a variety of tribes, or Nations, and bands. Ojibwe, or the Anishinaabe, are predominant in this area and we learned much about them as we traveled around the lake, picking up bits and pieces of history at various historical markers along the way. To see the modern versions of what's left of the bands was really something. The same woman pointed out to me that it didn't matter if you were part Wolf or part Crow because the pow-wow welcomed all. I desperately wanted to be one, too. *Pout*

B.E. said I blended in with these people, having many of the same features. I don't know if they were the nicest people ever to congregate in one setting or if they were extra nice to me because they thought I was one of them, but I truly was amazed at how kind and friendly everyone was.

And the festivities seemed to be fun for all!

Photo taken by Boyfriend Extraordinaire

Coming from such an urban area, it really was a shock and honor to have been welcomed so freely to the pow-wow, and though I did feel very out of place, I never once felt unwelcome. What a fantastic way to end the trip!

We departed the pow-wow just in awe, and B.E. even thanked me for going because he wouldn't have had the nerve, and it ended up being one of the more remarkable things either of us has ever seen.

The only other stop we made was south of Escanaba at a fishing museum, where we got a great tour of an old home and saw some of the neatest relics of a time long gone.

The ride home was mostly uneventful after that and only due to the time-consuming ride were we grateful to finally arrive at home.

It's hard to quantify all that we saw and learned on this trip. It seemed to be almost spiritual, as we saw the ancient and the modern all at once, feeling minuscule against the majestic landscape and feeling powerless next to the commanding lake. We also bore witness to the enormous effect we have on the land, though we feel dwarfed by it at the same time. We visited large cities and remote areas, met wild animals and braved some frightening dangers. We were touched and changed by our experiences and the knowledge we gained, particularly due to the people we encountered and all that they had to share with us. And as vacations go, we really, really enjoyed ourselves and each other's company. What an adventure!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your great pictures and descriptions of your visits to the U.P. I have been inspired by some of your pictures to go out an explore more of the U.P. myself and to take better pictures. If you have some time and would like to take a look at some of the pictures that my husband and I took while on our honeymoon, please do so at

Anonymous said...

I moved from Michigan in 2004. Your pictures really make me homesick. I dream of returning to make a trip around Superior. If I don't get to do it someday at least I got to see and read what it is like. Thank you so much!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful coverage of your trip. As a Canadian, I appreciate how you enjoyed the trip from Nipigon to Marathon. Funny how you put your camera away during that interval.
You need a vacation. I am looking forward to doing that trip soon. I also love the trip from Wawa to Batchawana Bay.

Burce, Winnipeg