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U-M’s Camp KinoMaage: Native American middle schoolers engage in exploration of science, culture, tradition

  • Contact Helki Jackson, (734) 647-1402 (office), (734) 730-7770 (cell), jacksonh@umich.edu

ANN ARBOR—Eighteen Native American middle school students from seven Michigan tribes soon will go to summer camp, a uniquely multifaceted and productive program at the University of Michigan Biological Station at Douglas Lake near Pellston.

The students will travel to the Bio-Station from Michigan reservations, small towns and big cities to engage in an immersive week of scientific and cultural exploration.

Guided by U-M faculty, staff and students, and by Michigan tribal elders, the campers will dig into science, literally, as they study the science of soil. They will explore the Bio-Station's Native American Late Woodland cache pits and other archaeological elements like fire cracked rock. They will dive into water ecology, taking and analyzing samples at "The Gorge," and more.

The Bio-Station campers also will learn cultural arts, including black ash crafts, and play freeze tag and board games in Anishinaabemowin, to complement daily lessons in the Ojibwe language. In Medicine Wheel Reflections each afternoon, they will explore the correlation of words to history and language, and delve into topics like the relationship of college to culture and identity, and language to science.

"Camp KinoMaage is unique because it incorporates the Ojibwe language taught by fluent-speaking elders who stay with the youth for the entirety of the residential program," said KinoMaage coordinator Helki Jackson. Additionally, "a local guest drum and head dancers conduct workshops with the youth. And the camp invites local Native artists to facilitate workshops during the week and give campers the opportunity to learn how to create their own black ash baskets, dream catchers and other Native jewelry."

The campers' science work also converges with important cultural touchstones. "The curriculum focuses on connections between science and Native history and culture through hands-on learning, such as field- and water-based experiments," Jackson said.

This year's KinoMaage campers represent the Sault Ste. Marie Band of Chippewa Indians/Bay Mills Indian Community; Pokagon Band of Potawatomi; Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians/Sault Ste Marie; Little River Band of Ottawa Indians; Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians /Detroit; Saginaw Chippewa Tribe; and the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community of the Lake Superior Band of Chippewa Indians.

Established in 2011, Camp KinoMaage participants are recruited through close collaboration with tribal education directors throughout the state. Along with UMBS, KinoMaage is sponsored by the U-M Center for Educational Outreach, which seeks to encourage Michigan youth to go to college, whether at U-M or elsewhere; the U-M Government Relations office; and the Office of the Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs.