The Student News Site of Northern Michigan University

The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

Meet the Staff
Megan Poe
Opinion Editor

My name is Megan Poe and I’m an English (writing concentration) and Philosophy double major at Northern. My concurrent experience with being published in and interning for literary magazines has landed...

The North Wind Editorial Sessions
About us

The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas Wiertella April 30, 2024

Professor documents Ojibwe tradition

This weekend marks the second annual Upper Peninsula Folk Festival, which will feature many different ways to celebrate U.P. culture and heritage, including the screening of a documentary about the making of wigwams.

The film, Ojibwe Birch Bark Wigwam, produced and directed by NMU sociology professor Michael Loukinen, is meant to show the importance of the wigwam in Ojibwe culture, as well as the extensive amount of work it takes to make one from the ground up.

“This (film) shows the ancient survival knowledge of the Ojibwe,” Loukinen said. “They lived for thousands of years in homes like this in the U.P. You can walk outside right now and come back and tell me how you’d like to live in a wigwam. These people were tough.”

Loukinen described the film as a how-to on wigwam making. It follows Nick Hockings, a member of the eagle clan of the Ojibwe, as he teaches a group of Euro-Americans the art of wigwam making.

Story continues below advertisement

The film was made in Iron River, Mich. on Haggerman Lake. Hockings runs a museum in that area and often shows visitors many Ojibwe traditions, such as how to weave baskets. He also builds wigwams, sets up Ojibwe camps and builds canoes.

Hockings was instructing the small group of people featured in the documentary as a part of the U.S. Forest Service’s “Passport in Time” program, which allows people to participate in archeological digs under the supervision of an archeologist. In this case, the people volunteered to make a wigwam.

Loukinen said he chose to do this documentary because the wigwam was such a big part of the Ojibwe culture in the U.P.

“There’s this underlying spiritual attitude and reverence for the spirits of the trees (in the Ojibwe culture) . there’s a different attitude,” Loukinen said. “When you’re in that wigwam and you’re looking at the natural bark and the wood, it creates a feeling, obviously, of being close to the Earth and everything around you. If you go out and you put a plastic tent and a tarp all around you, there’s a barrier between you and the natural world.”

Loukinen has been making documentaries for years, many of which have focused on Ojibwe culture.

“What attracts me to this is the fascination that I have for Ojibwe culture,” he said. “Other than that, my fascination is based on making a connection, on a deep respect and a sense of awe that I feel. I hope I can translate that in my films.

“My father had some sort of sense of reverence when he was out in the forest and the lakes that he didn’t have when he wasn’t outside,” he added. “Maybe some of that came to me. I’m drawn to it.”

Working with Loukinen on the film was Grant Guston, academic electronics technician for the Learning Resources Center. He handled the graphics as well as the editing and effects.

The pair has worked together for twelve years making documentaries, and Guston said the work they do together provides both of them with unique perspectives on the subject of the films they make.

“With most of the Ojibwe films, I didn’t shoot a lot of them,” Guston said. “Just on a couple. But, I get to analyze all the footage, all the interviews. That does interest me, and of course, (so does) the subject matter. I kind of take hold of that, I get to explore it in that way.”

The screening of the film is sponsored by the Native American Students Association, the NMU Anthropology Club. The showing will take place in Jamrich 102 at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 13. The event is free to students.

More to Discover