Visitor Services Representative Raymond Cadotte (left) receives
some personal instruction from workshop presenter Jim Miller.
packed Ziibiwing Center conference room full of workshop participants
watches Miller share some pre-1800s technology.
"The Wilderness Skills of Our Ancestors" demonstration on Feb.
20 at the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture and Lifeways provided
a packed room of participants with some indigenous knowledge and
offered insight into the past.
Jim Miller of Willow Winds gave a spirited interactive demonstration
that featured multimedia and some handson opportunities to learn
about the tools and products used back in the day.
"This is what we do and it's our roots and our history," Miller
said. "From canoes to tanning hides and starting fires, we get to
put our hands on those things that give us life. When you are making
a birch bark basket, it is one thing to sit in the classroom and
read about it, but when you dig around the roots and smell the earth
and when you can feel and smell the bark, it wakes up our senses.
The beginning for me was about touching those senses."
Throughout the past several years, he has become a highly sought
after lecturer and instructor. His traditional demonstrations breathe
life into indigenous history and are featured regularly at special
events around the country.
Miller has tanned buckskins for several movies including "Thunderheart",
"The Indian in My Cupboard", "Last of the Dogmen"
and "A Will of Their Own".
Birch bark baskets, traditional Indian villages and canoes,
created by Miller in the woodland Indian design, have been featured
at several museums and cultural centers around Michigan and across
the United States, including historic Ft. Michilimackinac in Mackinaw
City, Mich. and Cranbrook Institute of Arts and Science in Bloomfield,
Miller has done authentic wigwam and village construction for
the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Cultural Heritage Center, Cranbrook
Institute of Art and Science and the Chippewa Nature Center.
Miller has also offered presentations for the Sault Ste. Marie
Tribe of Chippewa Indians Bahweting School and also at Ferris State
University in Big Rapids.
His television credits include a NBC mini-series "A Will
of Their Own", and appearance in Michigan Magazine, Michigan
Out-ofDoors and Outdoor Magazine. SCIT Tribal Member and Native
artist Ellie Mitchell found the whole workshop interesting and captivating.
"(Miller) packed a lot of knowledge into the two-hour demonstration.
The knowledge shared just goes to show our ancestors were geniuses,"
Mitchell said. "To manage to thrive and survive in the wilderness
along with keeping our territories and beating back enemies is exceptional.
Learning about tree roots and the tanning process is something we
don't get in school."
Little River Band of Ottawa Tribal Elder and Native artist Shirley
Brauker has worked with Miller for five years at the Indian Village
Camp in Manistee, Mich. and was excited to see him at SCIT.
"You can see that Jim is respectful in the way he treats all
his materials: He began with smudging the room and it shows he works
in a reverent kind of manner," Brauker said. "I think it's valuable
for all the Tribal Members to see some of our ancient customs and
tradition that were handed down over time."
Miller continues to teach classes and demonstrate traditional
wilderness skills at camps, nature centers, museums and schools
throughout the state and around the country.
On June 15-19, Miller and his Willow Winds staff are offering
a comprehensive traditional wilderness skills camp at their northern
Michigan, location at 962 F-30, Mikado, Michigan, 48745.
For more information on the camp or how to schedule an on-site
demonstration, please call 989-736-3487 or access Miller's website
Outdoorsman and writer, Jim Miller is one of the nation's leading
advocates of the study and application of traditional wilderness
skills and crafts. The Port Huron, Michigan native discovered the
beauty and essence of the natural world at an early age and has
spent countless hours studying the skills of our ancestors in woods,
fields, and streams throughout the Great Lakes region.