on January 15, 2013
In June last year 2012 we spent a week in Onamia on Mille Lacs lake and this was one of the few places to spend time exploring in the area.TIMES AND PRICESThe museum is open from April 4 through Oct. 31, Wednesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Also open Tuesdays from Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.Groups of ten or more can be admitted at any time through special arrangementAdmission: $8 adults, $7 seniors and college students, $6 children ages 6-17; free for children age 5 and under.There is a Trading post shop beside the museum and this is open all year round except in January, Wednesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.THE MILLE LACS MUSEUMThe Mille Lacs tribe were Ojibwe ( Ojibwa ) American Indians and there are still members of this band in the area and there is a reservation not far from the museum. The museum aims to show a little of the tribes culture, their beliefs, their way of life and what they currently do to preserve their culture, language, music and dance.The Museum tells the story of how the Ojibjwe tribe traveled northwards to eventually settle around the shores of Mille Lac Lake and other parts of north Minnesota and how they adapted to the cooler climate of the area.The museum is huge,modern and very open so that the exhibits are spaced well and plenty of written information is put near the exhibits. It has a very welcoming feel about the place and at no time did we feel crowded or rushed and there were knowledgeable staff there to ask any questions too which we did.The most impressive part of the museum is the huge atrium sort of central area which is set up as a scene with four distinct parts each representing the different seasons. The scene shows the Ojibwe people going about their tasks for that season and also shows animals and vegetation that you would see at the time.This was impressive enough by itself and you could learn a lot by just looking but at specific times one of the museum staff came and gave a fascinating talk about the display and took us through each season and what the tribes would be doing at the time.It was really well done as we could actually see the display at the same time as we were being told what they were doing and how they caught fish, trapped animals, dried and cured the skins, made their boats, harvested rice and so one.One thing I found interesting is that they sunk their canoes in the winter prior to the lake freezing and that way they were protected from weather damage and also hidden from other potential users while the tribe moved away from the lake in winter.The museum was not just a display it was also a facility used by the Ojibwe to carry on their traditions and a craft room was used by local people and also visitors could go and learn about traditional cooking, birch bark basketry and beadwork as well as other crafts.There are also videos and interactive computer activities, places where you could listen to information and also of course many objects and artifacts all helping to give the visitor a really good idea of Ojibwe traditions and indeed about their lives today too.I was also impressed with the actual building which was full of light from the wall of windows. The window wall is curved and arches and was designed to reflect the shoreline of Lake Mille Lacs. The main wood used is local cedar and the exterior is highlighted with a copper dome and an there is a lovely traditionally inspired section made of ceramic tiles designed by a local elder called Batiste Sam.The Indian tribes do not have to abide by all US laws and taxes on the Indian reservations and that is why so many of them have casinos on them as this is a great way of the tribe earning money. OJIBWE TODAYThe Ojibwe tribe is a tribe of of more than 4,300 people and the main reservation is located in East Central Minnesota.The tribal government works in the same way of the US government and has a legislative branch, the Band Assembly, which makes the laws and assigns the money to be used by the tribe. The executive branch implements Band laws and administers the Band’s programs and services. There is also a Tribal Court. The Band’s tribal government employs approximately 700 people full time which is quite a large number of people.I was interested to hear that the Schools have an Ojibwe Language and Culture Program which encourages Elders to share their wisdom and knowledge. Elders are respected and in order to have them live in the community they have a number of assisted living house on the reservation.There are also ceremonial buildings and the youngsters are encouraged to learn their traditional Ojibwe language, ceremonies, and other traditional activities such as wigwam construction and sugarbushing (making maple sugar). It was also interesting to learn that many Ojibwe still use traditional hunting and fishing practices. .I found it a fascinating visit and I learned a lot about the tribe and how they lived in the past in the traditional way and I was impressed with the fact that they are taking care that their traditions and culture is passed to the next generation.THE TRADING POST OR GIFT SHOPNext to the museum is a restored trading post with an old petrol pump outside so that it looks as it might have done in the 1930s. The shop is more than a gift shop as local tribes people meet here and share their expertise in craft making. On sale are many locally made items and items traditionally used by tribe’s people. They also had postcards and some locally grown and cooked foodstuff such as wild rice and corn of different colours.This was a beautifully presented museum and the guide was excellent; she really knew her stuff and told the stories in such a lively and interesting way. We spent a couple to three hours in the museum listening to the guide, enjoying the exhibits and reading about the Ojibwe people today. If you are in the area I would certainly recommend a visit to this really well presented modern and informative museum.
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