Anishinaabe student shows culture through games

TEACHING+EACH+OTHER%E2%80%94From+left+Bazile+Panek+practices+Moccasin+Game+with+Grant+Latham%2C+Dr.+Martin+Reinhardt+and+Anthony+Cergnul+of+the+Native+American+Student+Association+%28NASA%29.%0APhoto+courtesy+of+Andrew+Lorinser

TEACHING EACH OTHER—From left Bazile Panek practices Moccasin Game with Grant Latham, Dr. Martin Reinhardt and Anthony Cergnul of the Native American Student Association (NASA). Photo courtesy of Andrew Lorinser

Bazile Panek has been playing Moccasin Games for nearly a decade. Panek, a member of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, is now using his experience to educate others during an afternoon of cultural immersion and instruction at Northern Michigan University.

“I learned to play Moccasin Game when I was 10 years old,” said Bazile Panek, a sophomore Native American Studies major. “My dad was the one who taught me. I have a vivid memory of him coming home from work one evening, and deciding to teach my sister and me how to play this game. Ever since then, I’ve been participating in tournaments, weekly game sessions, and sometimes instructing others how to play this game.”

Center for Native American Studies (CNAS) and NMU’s Native American Student Association (NASA) will host the 2019 NMU Moccasin Games on Thursday, Sept. 26. This year NASA and CNAS will feature Panek, president of NASA, and his two guests, Damon and Sophia Panek, who will present Moccasin and Dish Games respectively. The event will take place at the Whitman Hall Commons from 3 to 6 p.m.

The Moccasin Game was traditionally played by groups of Native Americans navigated by elders. In simplified terms one player hides a common object in one of several moccasins so others can’t see. Then the other player has to guess which moccasin it’s in. There are various adaptations. 

Bazile’s father, Damon Gizhiibide Aanakwad Panek of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe,  and his sister, Sophia Panek of Red Cliff, will join him from Wisconsin to further educate students, faculty and the community on traditional ways and different Moccasin Game variations. 

A casual educational introduction to culture through competition and entertainment will be facilitated by the Paneks. NMU students, faculty, guests and the public are welcome to learn and play traditional games of the Anishinaabe people of the Great Lakes.

“Through this game, I’ve been able to connect to many different elders,” Panek said. “Playing with elders in different communities has been very beneficial to my knowledge of the game and how it’s played, as they have an immense amount of knowledge about the game, and they’re really good at it.”

Moccasin Game was played in the area for entertainment, healing, resolving disputes and in trade.

“Traditionally, as I’ve heard from my elders, this game was played by men,” Panek explained. “This created an accepting space for men to interact and create a positive relationship with each other. This also created the environment for young boys to connect with older men and in turn, learn what it means to be an American Indian man. These young boys learned to be attentive, delicate, conscious, how to laugh, how to heal and many more life lessons.”

Sophia Panek will present Dish Game to further diversify the traditional games. Bazile adds students, faculty and community members should come prepared to have a great time and learn a lot. 

The CNAS and NASA community provides interactive celebration in traditional and contemporary Indigenous culture with music and drumming. Junior criminal justice and Native American Studies major Anthony Cergnul is vice president of NASA and, alongside Bazile Panek, helps organize similar cultural events for the community. 

“We are a registered organization open to both Native and non-Native students and community members,” Cergnul said. “We do have very active community members from the area in our organization as well as students of various ages and backgrounds.”

After feeling disconnected from his native background of Cherokee, Cergnul became more involved in the CNAS and started his position as vice president of NASA this semester. 

“I initially joined NASA to reconnect to my heritage,” Cergnul said. “It was a way for me to get actively involved and helping facilitate these different programs here in the community and on campus to kind of have that piece of home here, and if you don’t come from that background [NASA helps] to be able to experience some of our culture.”

This event is free and organized by CNAS in collaboration with NMU’s Native American Student Association.