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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


May 18, 2002 - Issue 61


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Village Vision

by Amanda Hulce Staff Writer Holland Sentinel
credits: Sentinel/Brian Forde: Carl McKinney lashes together branches that will form the skeleton of the Native American shelter, Friday at Outdoors Unlimited.
HOLLAND, MI - The scene is a sunny, windy day, and the characters are four people struggling to bend saplings into arches to build an ancient dwelling.

At the very beginning of their project, it's certainly not the surrounding landscape - an acre of land, currently covered in a meadow, a small pond, and a large section of bulldozed sand - that keeps them motivated

What motivates them is their vision of a Native American village, complete with a cookhouse, a garden, a winter house, and nature trails, all for the enjoyment and learning of local schoolchildren.

"We want to help kids make connections historically," said Travis Williams, director of the Outdoor Discovery Center, where the Native American village is being constructed.

The center, located just south of Holland on 56th Street, was developed by Wildlife Unlimited as a hands-on resource for teachers and students, as well as a scenic nature center for adults.

Since this past January, more than 4,000 students have visited the center.

The Native American village is the next step in developing the 110-acre center, which also include nature trails, wildlife, ponds and an indoor learning center.

Williams has worked with local teachers and the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District to develop the village and coordinate it with the elementary school curriculum.

"(The ODC) is a nature center, and the Native Americans were the first true naturalists," Williams said. "We want (the village) to be very historically accurate, authentic and realistic."

A team of historical and cultural consultants from Ancient Pathways of Grand Rapids has been hired to construct buildings and develop curriculum and classes.

Kevin and Katie Finney, owners of Ancient Pathways, are currently bending saplings and joining them to construct the Ottawa winter house that will be the first lodge on the land.

"It's not just the technology of understanding a structure, but knowing all the history and traditions," Kevin Finney said.

The waginogan, as it is called in the language of the Native Americans who inhabited Ottawa County, is a dome-shaped nomadic dwelling. It was traditionally covered in birch bark and cattail mats, which could be rolled up and carried as the occupants moved around.

The Finneys are concerned with preserving the authenticity of the village. They work with local Native Americans, as well as drawing on their own extensive knowledge of Native American history and culture.

"An important part of this program is connecting with the Native American community, and promoting not just the community but Native American culture," Finney said.

Along with the winter house, the Finneys and friend Carl McKinney will be working this summer to construct a cookhouse and a garden.

The garden will grow the crops that Native Americans relied on: corn, beans and squash.

"It will be a working garden that kids can tend -- very hands-on," Williams said.

People who wish to volunteer with the Native American village can contact Travis Williams at 393-9453.

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.

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