2015 : Chief Waukazoo’s Descendents Invited Back to Park Township

August 15, 2018 all-day

Over 150 years later, Waukazoo’s descendants are returning to the area to participate in Park Township’s 100th anniversary celebration from August 15-23.

In the 1830s and 40s, Chief Waukazoo and about 300 Ottawa Native Americans lived in a village on Lake Macatawa, then known as Black Lake.

Now, over 150 years later, Waukazoo’s descendants are returning to the area to participate in Park Township’s 100th anniversary celebration from August 15-23 (2015).

“It’s kinda turning into what they are calling a homecoming,” Supervisor Jerry Hunsburger said.

Plans for the Waukazoo participation have been in the works since early spring, when Hunsburger and Robert Ortman began meeting with some of Waukazoo’s descendants from the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians in Peshawbestown, just north of Traverse City.

Tribal elders and Waukazoo descendants Art Dembinski, Pat Putney and Jack Swanson are leading the organization of Waukazoo events with Park Township officials.

“For us, this is an honor as a family,” Swanson said.

Chief Waukazoo and his people left the area in June 1849. Waukazoo, along with Rev. George N. Smith, led the move further north and founded the village of Waukazooville in the area of what is now Northport.

Many of Waukazoo’s descendants still live in that area as part of the Grand Traverse Band. Other Waukazoo descendants have been scattered across the country due to forced relocations or Native American children being placed in foster care or adopted out to non-native families.

Before the Indian Child Welfare Act act was enacted in 1978, there was a high removal rate of native children from their traditional homes. In some cases, the Bureau of Indian Affairs was paying the states to remove Indian children and to place them with non-Native American families and religious groups. The ICWA gave tribal governments a stronger voice when it came to child custody proceedings of Native American children.

“In our family alone, we had five generations that didn’t live as a family,” Putney said.

The hope is that Park Township’s centennial will be a way to gather back together.

“After more than 150 years, we’re coming full circle,” Swanson said.

The Waukazoos will have historical presentations and a historical display of what the 1830s settlement may have looked like at the Ottawa County fairgrounds during the week of the Park Township centennial.

“We want to do the whole village thing with wigwams,” Putney said. “Everything from starting a fire to flint makers and women making baskets.”

People will also be able to make take-home crafts like cornhusk dolls, leather bracelets and dream catchers.

A traditional feast will be held on the night of Friday, Aug. 21. Putney said this consists of things like Indian corn soup, pan bread, fish, buffalo with wild rice, squash, wild blueberries and strawberries.

“We usually ask people to make and bring a dish from their nationality too,” Putney said.

The Waukazoo celebration concludes on Sunday, Aug. 23, with a powwow beginning at 12 p.m. All Waukazoo events will be held at the Ottawa County fairgrounds.

“We are honored to have them as participants,” Hunsburger said.

He added, “We want people to know who we are and understand where we came from. Park Township is turning 100, but obviously people have been here longer than that.”

Source :  Erin Dietzer, “Descendants of Chief Waukazoo join Park Township centennial celebration“, Holland Sentinel, August 1, 2015.

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