A watercolor of the Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort
Soaring Eagle Casino, Plein Air Watercolor

Living On the Edge:
Isabella Indian Reservation

Introduction 

I often blog about the places where I make art, as the works often tie in to a specific location. For instance I have written about art featuring my home base the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community

22 years ago I moved downstate to the Mt. Pleasant area. Since then,  I have mostly lived inside the Isabella Indian Reservation boundaries or nearby.   I use the formal name of the Reservation for this blog just like I use the title “L’Anse Indian Reservation” in my other blogs. 

My yard shares a boundary with Tribal property. In addition to drawing, painting, and photography, I often walk or bike on the Reservation, including going to the Nimkee Clinic for health services. 

A selfie of Mike Sherman artist walking in cold, wet, windy weather
Mike Sherman walking on Broadway Street
A photo of Mike Sherman taking a selfie on his bike
Selfie by Casino Construction
A photo of a Nimkee vaccination pin
Nimkee Vaccination Pin

Killdeer Rescue

When the Soaring Eagle Casino shut down,  I rescued a little killdeer chick trying to cross the still busy Leighton Road in front of the casino. I took a quick photo and released the baby in a safer spot.   This drawing, the only artwork on this blog that is available,  is based on that photo and is featured in my blog Drawing Michigan.

drawing of a killdeer chick in hand
Killdeer Chick, mixed media

Rez Photography

I have always been most comfortable as an observer or interacting through my art or behind a camera. This includes my time on the Isabella Indian Reservation drawing, painting, and taking pictures.  

A photo of milkweed with the setting sun in the background
Milkweed on Makwa Road

Ziibiwing Center

The Ziibiwing Center is located near the casino. I have visited this cultural and historical place for years, and have taken coworkers, family, and friends to visit. My mom certainly enjoyed her visit two years ago.

A picture of an Ojibwe elder inspecting baskets at an exhibit
My mom Chiz looking at a basket exhibit
Photo of an Ojibwe Elder studying a display at a museum exhibit
Studying Everything

I brought my paper and charcoal pencils to Ziibiwing and got permission to draw directly from the exhibits. Here are some of the sketches from that day:

Nibokaan Indian Cemetery

Remains of Native People that were in museums are repatriated here for burial. Near the pow wow grounds, I enjoy biking to this sacred site on pleasant summer evenings.

A sign at the Nibokaan Indian Cemetery
Nibokaan Indian Cemetery
A photo of the Nibokaan Lodge Interior
Nibokaan Lodge Interior
A plein air watercolor painting of the Nibokaan Ceremonial Lodge
Nibokaan Ceremonial Lodge, watercolor

Nottawa Indian Cemetery

Like most reservations across the United States, the Isabella Indian Reservation was broken up into sections. I came across this little cemetery while on one of my rural painting expeditions. 

I love exploring small country cemeteries because of the stories they hold. Also they are often on a hill overlooking beautiful country scenery that I can paint without a lot of distraction.

A photo of a cemetery sign
A watercolor of a snag at Nottawa Indian Cemetery
Nottawa Cemetery Snag, Watercolor
watercolor of a landscape
Watercolor landscape at Nottawa Cemetery

Elijah Elk Cultural Center and Seventh Generation Programs

I volunteered at the Elijah Elk Cultural Center during the mid 2000s. While there, I drew free charcoal portraits and gave them away. I also painted the Seventh Generation Sign used at that time. 

Sometimes I liked to paint in the woodlot where the traditional pow wow is held each year. The following watercolors were done there. 

lodge poles
Lodge Poles
watercolor close up of a Tepee
Tepee

Pow Wow and the Boarding School

I have no pictures of the Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Pow Wow because I’m usually with friends and family while attending the  Keweenaw Bay Pow Wow held at the same time. 

I have devoted a blog exclusively about my connection to the boarding school titled “A Controversial History: Art from the Mt. Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School.”

Conclusion

Looking back on my art and photos, there is a feeling of isolation to many of them. Usually while walking on the rez I rarely see anyone.

I think and feel deeply about what I am observing but I usually do it alone, or always on the periphery of a community. There are drawbacks to this but I have come to accept my loner status and continue to use my art to share and connect with others.

A photo of a sunset on the Isabella Indian Reservation
Rez Sunset

Links

2 Responses

  1. This is a great blog Mike. I plan to spend a lot more time reading through this – probably after the holidays

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