Organizers hope Indigenous cultural event will lead to new Lansing Activity Center

Two women hope to revive a center dedicated to Indigenous culture in Lansing with an innovative pop-up event that will showcase a shared culture through food, fashion and speakers, among other topics.

Shannon Mejia and Ramona Henry call their September 23 event “We Are Still Here Trading Post” to highlight the presence of Indigenous peoples in Lansing and the need for a home that will keep their stories alive.

Mejia is a citizen of the Odawa Indian Bands of Little Traverse Bay. Henry is a citizen of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe. They are strong advocates for the indigenous people of Lansing, who make up about 1% of the city’s population, according to the US Census Bureau. The office recognizes those who identify as being in whole or in part “Native American and Alaska Native.”

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The women said their fellow Aboriginal people would benefit from a center that could do things like help children learn anishinaabemowinthe language of the Anishinaabe – a group of culturally related Great Lakes tribes that includes the Ojibwe/Chippewa, Odawa, Mississaugas, Nipissing, Algonquin, and Potawatomi peoples.

Mejia visited such a center in Lansing as a child to hear from the elders and learn about beadwork, ribbon skirts, and other teachings. The center closed about two decades ago.

Powwows, educational resources and assistance, entertainment and important community discussions took place at the center. Lansing native Keegan Jackoa music artist from the Wiikwemokoong First Nation, remembers attending powwows at the centre.

“When we had the center here as a kid I remembered so many great memories, and that’s where I remember most of my teachings, learnings and stuff that have stuck with me for my entire life. “, said Mejia.

Mejia and Henry’s free “We Are Still Here Trading Post” will begin at 9 a.m. on September 23 at The Fledge Community Center, 1300 Eureka St. in Lansing. In coordination with the objective of the event, Mejia said vendors are limited to tribal citizens and other indigenous peoples.

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“If I have other vendors doing Native American stuff, I’ll let them in. But for now, I’ll just try to keep it for Native American vendors just to focus on the cultural stuff,” a- she said.

Last fall, Mejia began serving a fusion of Odawa and Mexican flavors from her La India Mexicana Cocina food truck, which she saw as one of the first stepping stones to opening a cultural center. Although there is the Nokomis Cultural Center which provides much of this education in the nearby town of Okemossome Lansing alumni are facing travel restrictions for health reasons, Mejia said.

“I want something to stop (detachment) because when you detach you get colonized and you forget who you are,” Mejia said. “I don’t want that to happen.”

A dancer performs during the grand opening of the traditional riverside powwow on Sunday, May 31, 2015.

To date, Mejia said she has at least 20 registered vendors from various tribes and she hopes attendees will remember previous powwows. beader Aanzhenii Bigjohn will sell its items with Sunnese granados and barber Maheengunse Osawamick should offer haircuts.

“We are going to ask the indigenous community to create a billboard to represent their tribe,” Mejia said. “So when people come to this pop-up shop, there will be information on the table, and they can see how many different natives from different regions live here.”

Those wishing to become sellers can contact Mejia by phone at 517-619-8798 or by email [email protected].

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Contact journalist Krystal Nurse at (517) 267-1344 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @KrystalRNurse.

“We Are Still Here Trading Post” will begin at 9 a.m. on September 23 at The Fledge, 1300 Eureka St. in Lansing. Vendors are limited to tribal citizens and other indigenous peoples, however, the free event is open to the public.

Joseph K. Bennett