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Head Start book gives a kids-eye view of powwow tradition

December 6, 2017
Wendy Johnson
Pine Journal

When Fond du Lac Head Start needed a name for the program’s latest cultural book on powwows, the choice was obvious.

“‘Niimiwin’ – the Ojibwe word for ‘everyone dance’ – was perfect for it,” said author and Head Start teacher Leah Savage.

Savage, Head Start Literacy Coordinator Barb Forcier and design specialists Nikki Willgohs and Jill Pertler worked together on the book project, the third produced by the Fond du Lac Head Start program.

Savage explained that powows are a part of the Ojibwe tradition that children and families share together.

“My first early memory of powwows was at a Mille Lacs powwow when I was about 4 or 5,” she related. “I remember holding my father’s hand and watching all the dancers. He saw me trying to dance and bounce around and told me, ‘If you want to learn how to dance, you have to watch other people’s feet and copy what they’re doing.’ That’s what I tell kids to this day when we have powwow practice in our classrooms.”

The first two books in the series of locally produced cultural books for children, “Our Journey” and “Boozhoo,” were a collaboration between the Fond du Lac Reservation, the University of Minnesota Duluth, the Cloquet Educational Foundation and the Minnesota Department of Education and funded through grants to promote diversity and understanding. This book, however, was funded primarily through the proceeds from the previous two, both of which are now in their second printing.

“It had been a while since the two previous books,” said Savage, “and in 2007 we figured it would be a good idea to do another. We had the powwow season coming up, as well as regalia classes and wonderful kids, and so we decided to do a book on powwows.”