Indians and Stones

The world is washing away.

At least that’s how it seems sitting in the bus for four days in the car park of Leelanau Sands Casino just outside of Peshawbestown, with the continuous downpour of rain alternating between a gentle tapping on the roof to thunderous drumming you can’t escape.

But you know what? It’s just nice to sit for once. Not moving.

The car park isn’t bad at all, for out of the front window I can see a thin woodland strip and the waters of Grand Traverse Bay beyond, and it’s moderately quiet. I can sit and read until my heart is content, practice my new crochet skills or take in a movie – as Loops and I did one afternoon, watching To Kill a Mockingbird. I’d never seen it before and thoroughly enjoyed the production, and am now thinking about reading the book to compare. It is relaxed and peaceful in our car park life.

In fact we only have two distractions here, our next door neighbour, Gryph, and the Pow Wow taking place behind the casino over the weekend.
Gryph is the first unusual character we have met so far on our travels. The moment we pulled in he leapt from his van, oh this is his van…


And proceeded to welcome us warmly before offering me some cannabis to smoke. Now I’ve never smoked anything in my life, not even a cigarette, and it’s actually the first time I’ve ever been offered drugs.
I felt a little overwhelmed by the introduction.
Donning my best British cloak of awkwardness, I politely declined and exited the vicinity to leave Loops to deal with him for the next few days.
But I did like to view him from the windows of the bus, for Gryph obviously has some type of interesting life story. He lives in his van, getting up in the morning and sitting in his front seat with the door open (when it’s not raining) and listening to his stereo or occasionally reading a book for the rest of the day. He appears to do not much bar these things.
I find this rather fascinating. Who is he? What lead him to his lackadaisical lifestyle? How does he make any money to live? Where is he going and why? Everyone else we have met so far have been retirees or people out for short to medium length trips, in other words, the ‘norm’ of society. Gryph is something else altogether.
And to my knowledge he may well still be sitting in the car park right now, for he was certainly still there when we left.

As for our other distraction, well that was even more interesting, as for the first time in my life, I attended a Pow Wow. I guess this is a good time to talk about American Indians and their Reservation Land, not that I know that much at all.
Now, when I think of Indian Reservations I think back to a trip my mum and I made together in 2009 which took us through the states of Utah, Arizona and Nevada. While traveling we passed through quite large tracts of Hopi and Navajo Reservation land which together cover around 30,000 square miles, complete with housing, schools, full communities etc. We even stopped in one area at a Hopi museum and had a lovely tour by an Indian named Pat who took us out and showed us around some of the local cultural sites which was absolutely fascinating.
But what I have discovered recently on our travels is that there are actually a fair number of some very small areas of Reservation land dotted about that we’ve seen in both Indiana and Michigan, which you would blink and miss it if you didn’t know where you were on a map. We are currently parked on Grand Traverse Reservation, a small parcel of land belonging to The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. When you look into the history of some of these peoples, you’ll begin to realise that really they got very royally screwed out of their land when the American government was first formed and swarmed over the country taking control of large tracts of land. Here in fact is the brief story of the people where we are currently staying if you wish to read it –

Today when most people think of American Indians and Reservations one of the first things that springs to their minds is this – casinos for the most part are found on Indian Reservation Land. The reason for this is that casino style gambling is actually illegal in the majority of US states but because Indian Reservations are Sovereign states within the country, the gambling legislation doesn’t apply to them and therefore they can operate casinos within their land to earn income. In fact, if you look at a Google map which shows areas of Reservation land, you’ll actually find that in a number of cases the only things sitting on tribal land will be the casino and some civic buildings, but no actual people living on the land.

Anyway, now back to the Pow Wow. Funnily enough it was Gryph who raised our attention to the event going on and, not having any idea what a Pow Wow was, Loops and I decided to make a visit and see what we could find given that it was open to the public.
We cycled over to the Strong Heart Civic Centre, which lies behind the casino and is nestled at the bottom of a small valley. As you enter from above you can see that the centre has been built in the shape of a turtle – apparently turtles signify Mother Earth in American Indian culture which should be honoured. There is already a large gathering of people at the centre; the majority are American Indian to some degree or other, with only a handful of white people. I can already smell food and as we make our way into the building I can see there is a rip roaring trade going for ‘walking tacos’.
As it turns out, a Pow Wow is a social gathering with people coming together to dance, have food and generally enjoy the company of others in the community. The main hall has a large open circular space with chairs placed around the outside. At the far end of the building there is a table where the organisers and announcer sit. Loops and I manage to grab a couple chairs as the building is filling up fast (note – if you ever go to a Pow Wow, my advice is to take a couple folding chairs), and we wait to see what is going to happen.

The event starts with a flag ceremony, there are flags representing the different bands of Indians as well as four for the different branches of the military, and people from the crowd have volunteered to carry them while the chap talks over the microphone. I wish I could tell you what he was saying, but the speakers really weren’t clear and the crowd were chatting too loudly to hear.
Next the dancers appear, entering the hall dressed in their regalia. Loops and I are prompted by the lady beside us to stand up; apparently this is a show of respect for the dancers. Now I’m not even going to try and describe the clothing worn, because I’m very aware I have no clue what I am talking about, so instead I’ll play a video clip and hopefully you can see what the Pow Wow in general is all about…

All I can tell you is that I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing; I understand some people might not feel the same way. I certainly know that Loops had his fill of drums and dancing very quickly, and others have told me the music is very ‘samey’ to them. However, I felt the music had real power to it, and some of the dancers when they are really enthusiastic, pull you into the feeling of the celebration. The music and dances I know are meant to represent different things, for instance at one point there was a friendship dance I believe, and everyone in the building who wanted to join in was invited into the circle to participate (sadly I didn’t, but probably would at a future one).
The main thing that stuck with me though wasn’t actually the dancing, it was the drumming. In case you didn’t know and can’t tell from the video at all, the drummers are actually sitting around huge drums and it takes between 5 – 10 people working together to make the drums sound properly. In addition to this, they are also the singers and so must not only beat in time as a team, but sing as well. It was all incredibly fascinating and moving to experience, and once again makes me think about the sense of community that I seem to lack in my own life. How wonderful it must be to be part of such a close knit community of people.

Once the continuous rain decided to have a time out, we decided it was time to move on.
We waved goodbye to our casino buddy and joined State Road 22, following it south through the town of Sutton’s Bay and over to Traverse City; a beautiful drive following the edge of the bay, and now with the sun out to make the water sparkle and shine. We didn’t stop in Traverse City but ploughed on through, for we were still on a quest – the Petoskey Stone still eludes me!

I had carried out a little more research since my last hunt and was advised that the best places to search for my treasure were the stony shores between the towns of Charlevoix and Petoskey itself. Just past Charlevoix we happened upon Lake Michigan Shores Roadside Park, where we were able to pull in and unload the bikes and cycle along the Little Traverse Wheelway, a bike path that runs between the two towns.

Parked at Lake Michigan Shores Roadside Park – nice view


While peddling I managed to spot a small stone beach to our left, only accessible to those on the bike path, and then only if they climbed off their bikes, walked through the grass verge and slid down the small sand bank and onto the small spit. Well, it looked as good a spot as any…

So I found my stone!

Not just one either, but two moderate sized stones. And then a couple of pebbley ones as well. It seems this is the place to come, and I didn’t even need to go swimming for them, they were right there in the wash. I was the most excited I have been on this entire trip, hopping up and down and grinning ear to ear. I’m sure I was rather unbearable. And with all that excitement and a long day’s drive complete, we pull into the Odawa Casino Resort in Petoskey and avail ourselves of one of their parking spaces for the night.
Hurrah for casinos!


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