Gogebic County Native American tribe fundraises for tribe elders

The Michigan Indians Elders Association (MIEA) was created by a Lac Vieux Desert Tribe member in 1997.
Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 6:03 PM EDT
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WATERSMEET, Mich. (WLUC) - A Gogebic County Native American tribe, The Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, hosted a fundraiser today to support its elders.

Community members purchased a bagged lunch. The proceeds will benefit the elders’ trip program. The tribe’s goal is to support efforts to share elder knowledge about traditions and cultural practices.

“Before we just lived and assimilated. Now, the people that are smarter than me are trying to get things back. Like the culture and the language,” said Susan Vanzile, Lac Vieux Desert Elders Program driver.

The Michigan Indians Elders Association (MIEA) was created by a Lac Vieux Desert Tribe member in 1997. Its purpose is to connect the 12 tribes from across Michigan. Elders from around the state will travel to meet each other.

“They get together and discuss issues like global warming, they will help raise money for scholarships for the kids. They also get together for companionship and talking,” Vanzile said.

To qualify as an elder, a tribal member must be older than 55. There are 93 elders in the Lac Vieux Desert Tribe. The oldest is 89-year-old Ruth Antone.

“When we moved from Lac Vieux Desert, we had our own school out there. When we moved to Watersmeet in town, it was hard to get used to stuff,” Antone said.

Antone said her tribe is one of the smallest in the country, with a little more than 500 registered members. However, that number has been increasing. She said keeping her culture alive in the past century has been difficult.

“We had language classes. It was hard, you forget a lot,” Antone said. “When I grew up with the language, all of a sudden we went to public school and we couldn’t speak our language. It was hard for us to keep up with it. I understand it, but I don’t speak it that much.”

Antone hopes her grandchildren and their descendants continue to share their tribe’s rich history long after the current elders are gone.