Learning for the Future, Reconnecting to the Past

Pine Creek Culture Nights

Culture Nights offer a time to be together and open oneself up to their true artistic ability. At Culture Night there are no limits. One positive outcome of the COVID era is the adaptation of abstract learning, where attendees are able to design and create whatever their imaginations can come up with, as well as whatever their hands can manipulate.

Abstract thinking consists of teachers presenting information in various ways. By doing this, they are opening their students’ eyes to thought processes outside of the basic lesson.

“We do abstract teaching (as instructors). So, they do things hands on with a visual and they learn it after that. It’s trial and error and then they perfect it,” says Culture Specialist and Tribal Member Kevin Harris II, who has found a silver lining from the pandemic.

Classes that used to consist of 30 to 50 people are now condensed to one family or small group per night.

“Through social distancing and the COVID era, we couldn’t actually have classes. We had to customize it to one household a week. That worked out because that one household got to focus and finish and get into that abstract teaching.” Through this turn of events, participants were then able to expand upon their own ideas or previous teachings.

FireKeepers Casino Hotel Tribal Development Coordinator and Tribal Member Dane Stauffer is one such student who was able to build upon his experience. His first project was a custom shirt. After finishing this, he had the idea to create his own design for a tie. Being able to wear what he has made gave Stauffer an added sense of accomplishment. “Actually, sitting down and crafting-I’m proud to throw that on and walk out and wear that home and call my family.”

While not only growing the connection the participants have to their Culture, this class also allows for outside connection, such as the casino and those who work there as well.

“A year ago, we weren’t coming to Culture Night from a work standpoint, now we’re trying to tie it together. Team Members at the casino are now asking for language classes and stuff like that. Then we reach out to the Culture Department. Now we’re just tying it all together with our Tribal Members who work at the casino so it doesn’t just feel like another job. They can look around and know that they are working with their people, for their people,” says Stauffer.

Culture Night attendees are also able to reconnect with skills from childhood, allowing them to tap back into lessons they have not reflected on in some time. Human Resources Tribal Training and Development Manager and Tribal Member Kiara Dougherty, who had not made a Ribbon Skirt since the age of 12, is able to come in and get back on the sewing machine for the first time in years.

“My mom used to try to teach me how to make Regalia when I was younger, and I didn’t appreciate it as much. So, to be able to come back and learn all of that, I appreciate our traditions a lot more. It’s nice to be hands on and have Jenn and Kevin here to be teaching us. I’m very appreciative of the experience.”

Tribal Elder Timothy Bush is an avid attendee of Culture Night. He has not missed one class and greatly enjoys his time spent there. Culture Associate and Tribal Member Andre Mandoka aides Bush with his interest in Drumsticks. Since Mandoka has begun assisting with the class, he has made five Drums and over 60 Drumsticks. He enjoys helping the Elders, and when asked about Bush, he responded by saying, “That’s my guy.”

Another knowledgeable resource at Culture Night is Language Associate and Tribal Member Jenniffer Wethington. Having sewn for years, she says that getting into Regalia making was, “just a step over.” She also enjoys having Bush in class. This week she presented him with a custom-made appliqué shirt she created for him. The smile on his face when he tried it on was contagious. Wethington not only makes items for the Elders, but she has also made Regalia for kids and dolls, among her other creations. Her advice to anyone interested in sewing? “It’s not near as hard as it looks. If you can drive a car, you can drive a sewing machine .”

Harris will proudly tell you about the doors this class has opened up for its participants and the cultural significance it has provided for the Tribe and those around them.

“We are harvesting our own Medicines, in here. We went out harvesting Wild Rice during the Rice season. We are just all over the place. Everything in the Strategic Plan we have done, and we’re still doing it. It’s what we are supposed to do being Native Americans. In the Strategic Plan we implement our Cultural ways, revitalize Language and the history. We do it all in Culture Night,” said Harris.

Culture Night is a time for growth and learning, as well as a time to bond together. These activities highlight understanding of what it means to Neshnabék and are to be shared. All Tribal Members are invited and encouraged to attend Culture Night!


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