Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians
Winning awards is nothing new for Mino-giizhig (Wayne Valliere), but his latest award is a once in a lifetime honor. It was announced this month that Valliere (Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe) is a recipient of this year's National Heritage Fellowship. This award is granted by the National Endowment for the Arts, and is the nation's highest honor in traditional arts. Due to the uncertainties of the Covid-19 pandemic, awardees will be honored by a virtual ceremony in October of 2020, and they will be invited to Washington D.C. in 2021 to convene for an in-person celebration and concert.
Mino-giizhig is a well-respected birchbark canoe builder and artist in the community. Chosen to be a culture bearer by his elders, Valliere is skilled in many cultural art practices and also works in several traditional art forms such as regalia making, basketry, pipe making, drum making, and the crafting of hunting tools, traps, lodges, snowshoes, and cradleboards. According to Valliere, "The greatest blessing I have as a Native artist is having the opportunity to be in the forest harvesting materials. It keeps me in balance with her as well as remembering the teachings of my elders."
"This award isn't for me," Valliere said. "This award is for my ancestors who passed along all of this knowledge, this teaching so that I could have a good life. It is for the children of our tribe who will carry it forward so that their children and grandchildren can have a good life. This award is for my tribe.”
Mino-giizhig currently teaches Language and Culture at the Lac du Flambeau Public School, where he teaches hundreds of youth a year to practice their culture through the traditional arts. He has taught birchbark canoe building with students and apprentices in Lac du Flambeau, at the Indian Community School in Milwaukee, the University of Wisconsin—Madison, and with the communities of Bois Forte, Red Lake, and the Forest County Potawatomi. His next canoe project will involve constructing a canoe on the Northwestern campus.
"I get pleasure from sharing what my ancestors knew with non-Natives so that they can understand what tremendous knowledge we had back then. My ancestors had star knowledge. They knew about thermal convection. They built beautiful and highly efficient watercraft. They knew how to live in a good way. Those ancestors were wise. They told us that we all, all of us, people of every color, were part of this circle of life. We say we are all part of bimaadaziijig, the human race. That's something we could listen to today.”
Valliere’s previous awards include a Native Arts and Cultures Award in 2017, a First People’s Fund Cultural Capital Fellowship in 2016 and Community Spirit Award in 2015, along with numerous grants and awards from the Wisconsin Arts Board and the Wisconsin Humanities Council.