Ojibwe Winter Lodge Opening Ceremony January 14 at Lac du Flambeau Indian Reservation

The Ojibwe Winter Lodge Project—an
intergenerational, traditional arts project—will be celebrated with a public
dedication ceremony on Wednesday, January 14, at 12:00 pm, at YMCA Camp
Nawakwa, on the Lac du Flambeau Indian Reservation
The project
has been supported by the Wisconsin Humanities Council, the Lac du Flambeau
Ojibwe Language Program, the ENVISION Program, the Lac du Flambeau Public
School, UW-Madison’s Collaborative Center for Health Equity (CCHE), the Native
American Center for Health Professions, the Department of Comparative
Literature and Folklore Studies (CLFS), and the Center for the Study of Upper
Midwestern Cultures.


This traditional winter lodge style has
not been built in Lac du Flambeau in a very long time.  This
ingenious structure features peat-moss insulated walls, a radiant-heat floor
made of large river rocks, and an underground air-intake to provide oxygen for
a fire made of birchbark rolls.  This design averts several major
problems with other traditional wintertime dwellings.  It minimizes
smoke in the living quarters, as only a small fire is necessary to sustain even
heating after the underground stones are warmed.  It does not pull
cold air directly into the living quarters to provide oxygen for the fire,
instead drawing oxygen directly into the fire pit through an underground
duct.  The heated floor also resolves the problem of discomfort when
trying to sleep on cold earth at night.


The Winter Lodge was constructed by
master Ojibwe artist Wayne Valliere—an Ojibwe language teacher at the Lac du
Flambeau Public School.  Valliere is an accomplished Ojibwe artist,
having dedicated his life to the learning and teaching of traditional
arts.  A recent winner of the First People’s Fund Community Spirit
Award, Valliere has placed his artwork in venues such as the Museum of the
American Indian and the Evergreen Longhouse.  He is also an accomplished
birchbark canoe builder and the founder of the annual Ojibwe Winter
Games.  He was assisted by his apprentice, Lawrence Mann, and
supporting UW personnel, including Tim Frandy (CCHE), Thomas DuBois (CLFS), and
Colin Connors (CLFS).  According to CLFS professor Tom DuBois, the
project fits well with the ideals of public humanities and engaged
research.  “We are helping create and document an artwork that not
only celebrates but sustains Ojibwe culture in our state.”


Students in Lac du Flambeau’s ENVISION
program also assisted with the lodge’s historic
construction.  ENVISION uses Ojibwe methodologies, pedagogies, and
teachings to meet the needs of students in a culturally responsive
way.  Students learned not only about the lodge’s construction techniques
and the lodge’s historical importance, but also about the degree of scientific
and technological sophistication that their ancestors possessed.  The
students actively assisted UW folklorists in documenting the project, and they
will also participate in the curation of website detailing the lodge’s


Although the construction of the Winter
Lodge began only this fall, the harvesting of the natural materials—cedar bark,
birchbark, maple lodge poles, and more—began last June, when the bark was ready
to be peeled.  During the process of building the lodge, students
were actively working in the woods along their teachers and representatives
from UW-Madison, peeling cedar and birchbark, sewing together birch panels,
cutting maple saplings for the frame, digging the underground rock chamber, and
laying down nearly a ton of rocks into the subfloor.  “Not only are
they learning their culture, they are also getting lots of exercise from both
gathering the natural materials and building the structure,” says Wayne
Valliere.  “This is putting them on the path to good physical


Wayne Valliere sees the Winter Lodge
Project as a way to pass on Ojibwe heritage to a new generation of cultural
leaders.  His fascination with the art and ingenuity of his ancestors
has led to a lifelong passion to preserve and pass on the traditions of his
people.  “I’ve made my life about keeping our traditional ways, and
bringing back our traditional ways, so that they will be a part of our tribe’s
life in coming generations.”  


The planned dedication ceremony is free
and open to the public. Members of the public will be able to view and enter
the heated winter lodge, meet its makers, and observe and participate in the
dedication ceremonies that celebrate its opening.  A traditional
feast will be served.


For further information, contact Carol
Amour, Community Outreach and Special Projects Coordinator for Lac du Flambeau
Public School at (715) 439-3978 or amourcarol@yahoo.com.

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