Center in Okemos Promotes Learning of Native Cultures

A local learning center in Okemos is providing new opportunities to educate the public about American Indian culture.

The Nokomis Learning Center, located on Marsh Road near the Meridian Municipal Center, is an establishment devoted to bringing attention to Okemos’ local, American Indian history.

“Our effort is to preserve and help the native language arts and culture,” said Lesley Pollard, a member of the learning center’s staff.

The main native group the Nokomis Learning Center attempts to educate the public about is the Anishinaabe. The Anishinaabe is the accumulative group of the Ottawa, Potawatomi and Ojibway people who settled the area that’s now Michigan and the Great Lakes area approximately a thousand years ago. Also known as the Three Fires Confederacy, the three groups spoke similar dialects and shared similar aspects of culture like language and tradition.

The learning center uses a variety of teaching devices to inform people of the different aspects of Anishinaabe culture. Displays are placed through out the center, providing tangible examples of Anishinaabe culture including clothing, artisan and bead work, agriculture and hunting.

It’s this blend of culture and learning that visitors feel makes the learning center a worthwhile visit. Patrick and Kandi Taylor made their first visit to the learning center recently, traveling from their home in Rives Junction, approximately 28 miles south of Okemos. After discovering the learning center through its Web site, Patrick and Kandi thought it would be a worthwhile visit considering their mutual interest in native practices.

“We thought it would be nice to come and try to get our kids interested in nature,” said Patrick.

Pollard said a fairly good mixture of people both from Okemos and from out of town visit the learning center, but wishes more people knew about it.

“We want more people to know it’s here,” Pollard said. “A lot of people say it’s their first time here and we want people to know we have other things to offer like our lecture series.”

The learning center provides a broad outreach program, offering several opportunities for community members to get involved, including guest lecturers and a social work course at Michigan State University taught by social work professor Suzanne Cross, with an emphasis on American Indian families and communities.

The next, upcoming event hosted by the Nokomis Learning Center is a chili cook-off and storytelling night that’s open to the public, on Friday, April 4. There will also be a guest lecturer speaking Tuesday, April 8 as a part of the center’s eight session lecture series. The lecture will be given on the subject of the aspects native language, culture and traditional gender roles by Margaret Noori, an associate professor from University of Michigan with a doctorate in English and linguistics.

The Nokomis Learning Center is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is open from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Further information can be found regarding the learning center at the Nokomis Web site at http://www.nokomis.org

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