- Associated Press - Monday, August 28, 2017

ST. IGNACE, Mich. (AP) - Driving in St. Ignace, there are so many things to see, it’s hard to take everything in. Your head is on a constant swivel trying to see everything, the water and marinas of East Moran Bay on one side, and the shops and restaurants on the other.

But nestled in among the souvenir shops and dining options sits the Museum of Ojibwa Culture. On the grounds are an old mission, sculpture park, the grave site of Father Marquette, a long house and Clan Park.

With so much to see - and learn - in a fairly small plot of downtown, you may want to begin your visit inside the mission building where the story of the Ojibwa culture is told. Learn about the Holy Childhood of Jesus Indian School in Harbor Springs, and find out the purpose of a longhouse and healing lodge. Follow the Ojibwa migration chart, and see their seasonal movement, using wigwams moving from one home to the next during the seasons.

The museum’s website describes the facility: “The city-operated museum and park uncovers the vivid history of life during the 1670s when the Ojibwa, Huron and French lifestyles met in Saint Ignace. Museum exhibits show Ojibwa culture and traditions, the first contact with the French and the site’s rich archaeological past.”

Each year, the museum is visited by 14,000 guests, according to museum director Shirley Sorrels.

“These numbers have gone up significantly over the last few years, from approximately 9,000 to 14,000,” Sorrels told the Holland Sentinel .

“When people visit the museum, I want them to take away newly learned information about Father Marquette and his mission here on this site, the history and culture of the Anishinaabe people and the Huron’s who lived on this site,” said Sorels. “I want them to leave with a sense of awe that this site is where history happened and the knowledge they have gained from our exhibits will make them feel that they have had a truly inspiring cultural experience etched in their memory.”

Guest Jane Benoit Vigness, who was on a bus tour, was impressed by the museum.

“Of all the places we stopped in our 3,000-mile French Canadian Metis tour, the museum and gardens were the best place - top of my list.”

The Father Marquette Mission Park and the surrounding grounds are archaeological sites and are registered as a National Historic Landmark, Michigan Historical Site and on the National Register of Historical Places.

New this year is the Anishinaabe Sculpture Park, where mixed-metal sculptures share the story of Native American life. Anishinaabe is the autonym for a group of culturally related indigenous peoples of Canada and the United States that include the Odawa, Ojibwe, Potawatomi, Oji-Cree, Mississaugas and Algonquin peoples.

“The detail is absolutely amazing, the time, thought and materials put into the sculptures and how to form them is the best work I have ever seen,” Mike Servis, a Native American from Michigan, said after seeing the first two sculptures. “Standing in front of the Medicine Man with the longhouse in the background takes you back to another time. He is a true figure of the spirituality of the Anishinaabe people. The fisherman makes you feel that you are actually standing there with him harvesting, the sound of the water trickling, the detail in the fish, you can feel the love, the passion and the respect for hunting and gathering.”

Back inside the museum, the children’s area was added last year. Young visitors can color and make Native American crafts and let their imagination run with a child’s version of a tee-pee and camp fire.

Join a free (tips are appreciated) guided walking tour through St. Igance on Mondays and Tuesdays. The 90-minute tours begin with a Sault Tribe member sharing traditional teachings. Tours begin at 6:30 p.m.

Run on donations and store sales, Sorrels said they get added help from the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, the Michigan Humanities Council, Michigan Council for the Arts, EUP Planning and Regional Development and the local community foundation. The City of St. Ignace Downtown Development Authority also contributes to the museum’s upkeep

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Information from: The Holland Sentinel, https://www.thehollandsentinel.com

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