The Mille Lacs Lake area has officially become the state’s 33rd scenic byway. To commemorate this, a celebratory event was held at Eddy’s Resort on October 15, the intent of which was to showcase the Mille Lacs Band's culture as a main staple of what makes the Mille Lacs area historic and special.
Timber Trails drum group (Percy Benjamin, Spud Gahbow, Erik Gahbow, John P. Benjamin, and Amik Brooks) were invited to sing, while Anangookwe Darcie Big Bear was called on to showcase old-style jingle dress dancing. Niigaanigwaneb (Byron Ninham) and Amikogaabawiikwe (Adrienne Benjamin) shared the original Four-Color Mille Lacs jingle dress story as originally told by Larry "Amikogaabaw'iban" Smallwood. They also talked about the significance of that story to this area and the impact that the jingle dress has had in Anishinaabe communities as a source of healing and how it came to be known for that. Erik Gahbow shared his take on the significance of the jingle dress and how much it has changed and grown since its inception. He talked about the contemporary version of the dress that is common to see now, and how he was grateful for dancers like Darcie that still dance in that old style. Adrienne shared an artistic viewpoint on the jingle dress and the process that goes into making one and how it can be a community- building event for those who sew and dance together.
During Darcie’s dance demonstration, event participants were invited to join in on the intertribals and side steps. The setting for this event couldn’t have been more perfect, as the event was held in the beautiful Eddy’s conference area that overlooks the lake. As the sun set on the evening and the event, it was truly a beautiful sight to see community members and neighbors, native and non-native, side-stepping together and sharing a bit of food and culture together.
At the end of the demonstration, the scenic byway coalition gave the performers and orators a standing ovation and were incredibly gracious and grateful for the demonstration.
After the event, many event-goers stayed to ask questions about the story and about the jingle dress, and to share how happy and grateful they were to be included in the sharing of the Mille Lacs Band's culture.
An excerpt from the Minnesota of Department of Transportation Website:
A Scenic Byway can be defined as a road corridor that has regionally outstanding scenic, natural, recreational, cultural, historic or archaeological significance. These corridors offer an alternative travel route to our major highways and daily travel patterns, while telling a story about Minnesota’s heritage, recreational activities, or beauty.
It’s a public road and its corridor recognized through legislation, or other official declaration, as a unique resource worth preserving. In addition, a Scenic Byway corridor is managed to protect this outstanding character and to encourage economic development through tourism and recreation.
For more information on this, visit: dot.state.mn.us