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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Michelle Reed: Fashion Designer, Dancer, Instructor, Leader
by Darren Thompson -

She's an enrolled member of the Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe in Northern Wisconsin and is dedicated to sharing her passion and culture with communities far and wide. Michelle spends much of her time in communities throughout the Northern Great Lakes, near her home in Northern Michigan with her husband and two children. And through much of the school year, she's instructing her N8V (Native) Dance Fitness course, with learners as young as 6 months old.

Michelle Reed (right) and the N8V Dance Fitness Class in Hannahville, Michigan

Over the past several years, Michelle has been amazing people with her intricate and one-of-a-kind creations making her waiting list for custom orders years in the making. She's a multi-talented artist whose journey has been a lifetime in the making and has been taking a turn that aims to expand even her own horizons.

Her most recent developments in her career have blossomed three separate business initiatives: fitness, production, and fashion.

Here we learn more about Michelle, her journey, and her future.

Beaded and appliqué boys dance outfit made for Niache Duncan

When asked if self-taught, Michelle responds with an enthusiastic definitely not. She credits her mother, Linda Batiste-Cohen for teaching her much of what she knows to this day. She recalls how hard her mother worked while she was younger, always creating and always beading. "I always wanted to be like my mom," says Michelle.

Men's beaded vest made for Ton Rolin

Revealing an upbringing with no running water or electricity, Michelle remembers always feeling positive and loved among her family, but when going to school near Marquette, Michigan she was treated poorly by her non-Native classmates. "Whenever I went to school I was treated poorly for being Native," says Michelle. "The real world was torture for being Native."

Applique floral vest made for Darren Thompson, Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe

And it is just that upbringing that inspires Michelle to do what she does for each and every project. To this day, Michelle Reed's fashion and artwork grace many stages, powwows, and red carpet events from some of Indian Country's most prestigious events to the Grammy Awards. So, of course, her demand and recognition is something she never imagined when she started making regalia years ago. Emotions that come immediately to mind for Michelle are honored, happy, and privileged.

Her focus is keeping simple. "You can change someone's life by doing simple things," she says. "My goal is to share my craft with others so that they can make things for their families."

Over the last several years she's been in various communities throughout the Great Lakes teaching communities how to bead, sew, and make regalia. Witnessing people of all ages make their first item is always really special says Michelle. It's what keeps her busy, focused, and dedicated to her culture and business.

Michelle Reed Designs women's purses

With such demand, it can be difficult to imagine how much else she can focus on, but her goals with her future will—no doubt—inspire many. She's aiming to shorten her custom orders so she can start producing her merchandise, which includes custom handmade purses and other fashion materials.

Woodland Sky Native American Dance Troupe, from left to right: Shane Mitchell, Michelle Reed, Lauren Reed, Hunter Reed, Chad Reed and Ronnie Preston

Four years ago she formed a dance company called Woodland Sky Native American Dance Company with Shane Mitchell, another champion dancer who's also a Lac du Flambeau tribal member. Together they strive to share the culture and dances of Wisconsin's first peoples. Among many who are taking note of her production is Native American Tourism of Wisconsin, an intertribal organization focused on promoting and highlighting the culture and people of Wisconsin's American Indian communities.

"Showing dances is really rewarding," says Michelle. "Whenever I think of being happy, I think of dancing and it's my goal to share the gift of dance with as many people as possible."

"We knew right away that we wanted to work with Michelle and the Woodland Sky Native American Dance Troupe," said Native American Tourism of Wisconsin Director Apache Danforth. "We have similar initiates to educate people and share our songs and dances in a culturally appropriate manner with people who are eager to learn."

Her dance company is loaded with talented people who are just as dedicated as her, aiming to provide a positive, educational experience for audiences and is only increasing in demand. Their work as a group has been featured at various state fairs throughout the Great Lakes, the Indian Summer Festival in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, performing at half-time for the Green Bay Packers, and for the world-renowned New Orleans Jazz Festival.

Michelle Reed performing the Eagle Dance on stage

Aside from her dance troupe, she's seen regularly as the lead female dancer for Brulé—an award-winning band and production also dedicated to healing the gap between Native and Non-Native cultures. She dances far and wide, from coast to coast regularly throughout the year and teaches people of all ages to dance. "As I got older, I started teaching people how to dance," says Michelle. "When I started seeing how people would feel when I helped create an outfit for them made me feel like what I was doing all these years had a purpose."

Now, with several years under her belt with her dance troupe, she regularly invites youth from her dance classes to join her production. Seeing the pride and confidence in her youth is what all her struggles, efforts, and sacrifices have been about she says.

"Seeing how proud our youth are in their culture is what all this work is for," says Michelle.

Michelle Reed and her son Hunter Reed hoop dancing for a school assembly in Crandon, Wisconsin

While a future can be difficult to predict, her success and hard work is definitely paying off and will no doubt be a factor in everything she strives for. Michelle is aiming to create more opportunities for her dance company, merchandising, and fitness classes. She hopes to add additional talent and a Native American flute player to contribute to her storytelling only increasing the demand for talent, paving a path for the next generation to strive for. If you'd like to follow this dedicated talent and a hard worker, you can do so via Facebook via Woodland Sky Native American Dance Company or her personal page at Michelle Reed.

But, still to this day, her personal goal is that one day she will be like her mom.

Michelle Reed, Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe
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