Ojibwe Flutist Creates Musical Retreat, Draws Tourists to Indian Country Gem

Darren Thompson created a musical retreat for tourists focused specifically on the Native American flute on the Lac du Flambeau Indian Reservation in Northern Wisconsin that has been called "one-of-a-kind."
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Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin - For decades families have experienced the beauty and culture of the Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe at the tribe's historic "Indian Bowl." And until a few years ago, it was one of Wisconsin's best-known introductions to tribal culture and traditions offering tourists as well as talent from all over Indian country an opportunity to share and experience cultural traditions. Since the early 1920s, Lac du Flambeau has been a cultural gem in Wisconsin and continues to provide cultural experiences for travelers from all over the world. Realizing the cultural assets in his own community, Darren Thompson created a musical retreat focused specifically on the Native American flute on the Lac du Flambeau Indian Reservation in Northern Wisconsin and had no idea it would continue to be an annual event. In its second consecutive year and acclaimed as "one-of-a-kind," the retreat exposes students to the Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe community, its history and its future all while offering participants with instruction and inspiration to learn about the Native American flute and its history.

Thompson is a renowned Native American flute player, Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe, who specializes in the performance of both modern and ancient Native American flutes reintroduced through rigorous studies of museum archives and collections. He is quickly becoming one of Indian country's most recognized Native American flute players by emphasizing the strengths and talents within American Indian cultures. A self-taught musician, Thompson has been performing for the past 10 years sharing the rich history of original American Indian music. He plays with a diversity of flutes that reflect many American Indian cultures.

The all-in-one retreat is hosted at Dillman's Bay Resort, a lakefront resort on the reservation that has a long and cherished history in Wisconsin's Northwoods. It is home to four beaches, a marina for a variety of water sports on the White Sand Lake and unlimited picnic areas. Unlike many resorts, Dillman’s also offers art workshop retreats with internationally known instructors providing students from all over the world an opportunity to focus on creativity while they get to know other like-minded learners.

"When Darren brought his passion to Dillman's Bay Resort last year, our students and guests were overwhelmed with satisfaction at such a unique offering," Dillman's Bay Resort owner Sue Robertson said in a news release. "With such positive feedback from the community and our guests, we thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to make this offering an annual tradition. We are so lucky to continue a total cultural immersion opportunity that is truly unique in arts."

Thompson said that his idea for the workshop arose from his desire to invite people to experience the beauty of Wisconsin's American Indian communities.

The retreat not only focuses on flute instruction, but exposes participants of all ages to various attractions and places of significance to the Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe people, including the tribe's cultural museum, the world-renowned Waswagoning Indian Village, which is a historic recreation of an Ojibwe village, and the future site of the Waswagoning Living and Cultural Arts Center. Participants are immersed in Ojibwe culture while lodging at a world-class lakeside resort.

Among those taking note and endorsing the event is Native American Tourism of Wisconsin, an organization dedicated to creating and promoting tourist opportunities within Wisconsin's American Indian communities. Home to the largest number of American Indian tribes east of the Mississippi River, Wisconsin's eleven tribes occupy some of the state’s most beautiful and unique landscapes: pristine lakes, rivers and streams, towering forests and ancient wild rice beds, each teaming with an abundance of wildlife. The organization exists to create opportunities that are accessible to the general public, to share Wisconsin's Native communities, their history, talent and culture with the rest of the world.

"It's challenging to develop a package that meets the desires of tourists, and Darren's retreat provides much of what Wisconsin's Native communities offer,” said Native American Tourism of Wisconsin's executive director Ernest Stevens III.

"It is a prime example of what Wisconsin's Native communities can offer, both material and immaterial," said Wisconsin Department of Tourism‘s tribal liaison Andrew Nussbaum. "Tribal art, traditions and culture are significant parts of both Indian and non-Indian communities in the state, making Wisconsin a remarkable place to explore the history of Wisconsin's Native people."

Set for June 21-25, Darren Thompson's 2nd Annual Native American Flute Retreat hosted at Dillman's Bay Resort on the Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe Reservation will expand new horizons within American Indian cultural tourism. In addition to the retreat, Thompson has scheduled an album release concert highlighting his new music compositions with ancient Native American flutes prior to the retreat, but during a special appearance by Bayfield's (WI) Big Top Chautauqua's Blue Canvas Orchestra, where hundreds of guests attend the yearly event.

For more information on Darren and his music, please visit DarrenThompson.net. For more information on Dillman's Bay Resort or workshop information, please visit Dillmans.com.

This story was originally published April 8, 2015.