BARAGA, Mich. (WJMN) – The drum is the heartbeat of a people and the very soul of the Baraga Pow Wow. As part of Our Community Tour Baraga, Local 3’s John Truitt attended the celebration earlier this summer.

The songs tell a story in a way that is not only unique, but heartfelt, plaintive, and passionate. Songs that transcend language, where the lyrics are felt as well as heard.

Every year, close to a thousand people from across the country, both native and non-native, gather at the Ojibwe campground in Baraga for Maawanji’ding, or “gathering” in the Ojibwe language.

“One of the big things about Pow Wows is that it’s a celebration of culture. It’s a celebration of who we are as Native American people,” said John Teller Jr, Emcee for the Baraga Pow Wow. “We’re the original inhabitants of North America. And the fact that we get to celebrate our culture and share it with our relatives and our friends and our neighbors is a truly wonderful thing.”

The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community is both the oldest and largest reservation in Michigan. It was established under the Chippewa Treaty of 1854.

With thousands of dollars in prize money, pride, and bragging rights at stake, everyone competing in the dance, drumming, and singing competitions realized the joy and amazement they contribute to the gathering.

“If you wanted to learn your language and to go back, you could go back to your home country that your ancestors originated from. We don’t have that luxury here,” Teller said. “And so the fact that our languages are continuing on, it’s part of who we are. The Anishinaabe language, the Menominee language, the Oneida language, any of our languages. It’s very much a big part of the continuation, the teaching and the learning, the relearning and passing on those traditions through our language, through our culture, through our stories.”

The three-day celebration included a Native American feast, which offered a native menu of moose, venison, walleye, and wild rice. Beyond entertainment, the Pow Wow reinforced and passed on vital traditions, relationships, and language to a younger generation, while honoring its elders with the respect they deserve.