MI - The scene is a sunny, windy day, and the characters are four
people struggling to bend saplings into arches to build an ancient
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
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
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.