Dispatches from the Wastelands: touring folk opera talks to commoners

"We all carry inside us the seeds of our destruction. 
We also carry the seeds of our redemption."

by Frank Ettawageshik

A five-mile bridge connects Michigan's Upper Peninsula to the mainland: the Straits of Mackinac are a point of suspension between Lakes Huron and Michigan. McGulpin Point Lighthouse -- occupied Odawa land -- sheds light on the history of the Anishinaabeg migration to Michigan and on barge traffic carrying goods from Chicago. 

Children of the Wild performs on the front steps of McGulpin's neighbor -- an Enbridge pump station for the Line 5 oil pipeline. Over sixty-four years old and poised to burst, this deadly line undercuts the Straits and carries the message of death for all whom the migratory channel reaches. 

Our prayerful song to the waters suspends the course of oil but for a moment. 

Frank is an "elder-in-training" from Habor Springs, MI. Among his other titles are "Recovering" Tribal Chairman of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians and current Executive Director of the United Tribes of Michigan. He also serves on the leadership team of Great Lakes Commons. 

Frank embodies the experience necessary to govern wisely on the Great Lakes. As a storyteller, Frank believes that Indigenous peoples need to root themselves in their own traditions in order to prepare for an uncertain future.

“Black Snake Bleeds” is the sixth dispatch from Children of the Wild’s The Wastelands tour, and the title of a song by Anishinaabe artists #Indianheadbandband from the Fond du Lac reservation in northern Minnesota. The video shows the artists performing on top of an exposed Enbridge oil pipeline on their reservation, intercut with publicly available company propaganda. Enbridge operates over 17,000 miles of crude pipelines in North America. Every pipeline leaks. 

Regardless, these pipelines directly violate treaties signed by the United States, including among many the 1855 Treaty of Washington, which guarantees access to safe hunting, ricing, and fishing lands to the Ojibwe. Oil and gas pipelines underscore the colonization that the fossil fuel industry and its government wages daily against all sovereign peoples of the world.

"Let the tears rain of hope, Lorain, on this place
And may the floodplains of your creative arts
Revitalize the wastelands."

by Monica "Journey" Idom

Broadway Ave, Lorain's main thoroughfare -- occupied Erie/Iroquois land -- is emblematic of the Rust Best boom-and-bust. Massive storefronts idle and rot, while the legacy Palace Theatre travails to remain a vestige of culture. 

Former employees of Lorain's U.S. Steel plant have gone fishing on the Black River. Meanwhile, at-risk teens are expressing themselves through art at the FireFish Arts Centre. The youth join Children of the Wild in guiding people through the empty alley-ways and parking lots of the post-industrial town with 'The Wastelands' folk opera. 

A poetess by the name of Journey proclaims the above message with the wisdom and passion of a street preacher. Originally from Cleveland, OH, she found poetry while working with prison inmates and now teaches self-empowerment with fierce acceptance that many are hardpressed to find outside of FireFish Arts. Monica reaches beyond the frame of her own existence, considering every resident of Lorain a vital part of the whole. Revitalization is an antidote to depression; and since Lorain revived her, she devotes her life to bringing back this once booming town.

Screen Shot 2017-11-07 at 10.18.26 PM.png