By Brad MacDonald | MLive Media Group

Mt. Pleasant’s extensive history with the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan inspires cultural connections to better experience the area and its people. Mt. Pleasant is a city to not merely visit but one to meet.

To meet Mt. Pleasant is to first explore the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture & Lifeways. The center promotes the belief that the culture, diversity, spirit of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan and other Great Lakes Anishinabek must be recognized, perpetuated, communicated and supported.

“We’re made of dedicated employees who do a great job presenting history, heritage and goals to our tribal citizens and people of the world,” said Willie Johnson, Curator and Operations Manager for the center. “What you’re getting when you come is a true snapshot of our culture, traditional beliefs, ways of life and our actual community.”

Permanent exhibit at the Ziibiwing center.

Ziibiwing Center opened in 2004 and in its inaugural year was recognized by the American Alliance of Museums, winning a Gold Muse Award for its use of media and technology — beating the likes of Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

The award-winning permanent exhibit — Diba Jimooyung (translates to “Telling Our Story”) — features more than 500 artifacts, interactive displays and a premier theater. Guests stroll through 15 areas that educate about the original people of the Great Lakes and their struggles to hold onto their land, language and lifeways.

“The center is unique because it’s a true participatory museum,” said Johnson. “There’s plenty to do at the Ziibiwing Center to come and be part of our cultural programming. We are most thrilled to been able to evolve with the tribal community as one of the cultural hubs of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan.”

The 34,349 square foot facility also includes a changing exhibition room, research center, conference rooms, gift shop and a tribal collections room with its own dedicated decontamination facility for protection of incoming materials and preservation of its permanent collection.

Main entrance of the Ziibiwing Center

Johnson said the center also recently added a new sound system thanks to a grant from Vadon Foundation. The new system provides Ziibiwing Center with equipment to better immerse people into the Anishinaabe Performance Circles that occur at the museum grounds.

“It allows those that come participate in the circle to have a public address system to learn to dance and introduce themselves to the language,” he said. “It improves the opportunity to teach the culture and share it with others.”

Eagle exhibit at the Ziibiwing Center.

Those who want to emphasize immersion into the Native American history and culture of Mt. Pleasant should plot their Ziibiwing Center encounter during the annual Saginaw Chippewa Tribal National Powwow. Slated July 28-30, the 39th Annual Powwow showcases native traditions with authentic foods, arts and crafts, dancing and storytelling among the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Reservation grounds.

The Powwow provides interested people the opportunity to observe traditional Native American dress, dancing, drumming, chanting and more. It maintains and honors the culture of Indigenous People where persistence, cohesion and ritual are celebrated through song, dance and social interaction.

Comprised of three Ojibwe bands, the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan invites the public to experience this culturally rich event and learn about the history that resides in the center of Michigan. Powwow attendees should understand etiquette as the event unfolds to avoid disruption and remain respectful. Learn about Powwow etiquette here.

Dancers at the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe Powwow

To meet Mt. Pleasant is to understand and reflect upon the profound cultural history of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan and other Great Lakes Anishinabek present in the area. The award-winning Ziibiwing Center merits exploration at any time. To pair it with a captivating event like the Powwow renders a fulfilling experience — one that fosters a connection to truly meet Mt. Pleasant.

“Visitors are encouraged to become part of the community so we can honor Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan’s tagline: ‘working together for our future,’” said Johnson. “We always tell first-time visitors the center is never a one-time event. There’s always opportunity to get involved with educational programming and stay part of the tribal community.”

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