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Discover Native American history and culture in Vilas County

Published: April 29, 2019

Vilas County is home to abundant natural beauty, but visitors can also learn about the area’s fascinating past at local museums and other attractions. Those interested in Vilas County’s Native American culture and history will discover many places to explore—here’s a look at some of the things you shouldn’t miss.

History

The Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians has inhabited the Lac du Flambeau area in southwestern Vilas County since 1745. The name of this community comes from the Band’s historical practice of harvesting fish by torchlight—the French traders and trappers who visited the area named the region “Lake of the Torches” (or Lac du Flambeau in French).

What to see

In Lac du Flambeau, the George W. Brown Jr. Ojibwe Museum & Culture Center is home to unique exhibits that share the story of the Ojibwe culture in the Northwoods. Learn about how the Ojibwe traditionally harvested wild rice, fish and game. See traditional clothing, Ojibwe arts and crafts and a 24-foot Ojibwe dugout canoe. Visit the center’s website to find more information about events, programs and seasonal hours.

The Mikwendaagoziwag Heritage Center (838 White Feather St., Lac du Flambeau) is a historic landmark that houses the “Legacy of Survival” exhibit and gallery in the former BIA Government Boarding School Boys’ Dormitory. The center is open from 8am to 3pm Monday through Friday.

A Northwoods tradition since the 1950s, pow wows are held weekly throughout the summer at the Waaswaaganing Indian Bowl Living Arts & Culture Center in Lac du Flambeau. Pow wows start at 7pm, and admission is $1 for children (through age 6), $5 for youths (ages 7-17), $10 for adults (18-54) and $5 for seniors (55+). See authentic Ojibwe dancing and enjoy traditional music—and don’t miss the homemade fry bread sold on site.

Common Ojibwe words and phrases

Here are some common Ojibwe words and phrases to help boost your vocabulary.

  • Hello = boozhoo
  • How are you? = aaniin ezhi ayaayan?
  • Lake = zaagai’igan
  • Sun = giizis
  • Northern lights = waasanoode
  • Deer = waawaashkeshii
  • Blueberry pie = Miin-aan baash kimini-sij-i-gan bitooyin sij-i-gan-i bukwayszhiigan

(Source: Lac du Flambeau Chamber)

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