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Heritage Day Shares Culture With All At National Cherry Festival

A culture all its own is shared with others on Tuesday for the Heritage Day parade at the National Cherry Festival. 

For the 26th year in a row, the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians are the title sponsor for the NCF’s Heritage Day.

Sam McClellan, tribe chairman, says the day is a chance for the tribe to show off its heritage.

“This is a tourist area, a tourist time, and so a lot of them have never been exposed to Native American culture traditions, the dances, and the languages,” he says.

Heritage Day has contests for the participants, both child and adult, says dancer Samantha Twocrow, who founded Miss Wiigwaasmin.

“We have little miss wiigwaasmin and miss wiigwaasmin,” Twocrow says. “Three years ago we added on a second princess for the younger girls, and pretty much they come in and we want them to be able to share their culture with everyone.”

Every aspect of Heritage Day has a story behind it.

“Everything that is on their regalia is sacred to them, something they went through in their lifetime,” McClellan says. “It’s just a matter of what they put on,” Chair says.

Twocrow says being a dancer means telling your own story.

“There’s such a large variety of dancers that you can come in and each one significantly means and has great stories,” she says.

But this Heritage Day isn’t just about sharing culture—it’s about coming together.

“Being able to culturally come together from all over is an amazing opportunity, not only just for the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa tribe members, but for our community as well,” Twocrow says.

The Heritage Day parade starts on Tuesday at 7 p.m. The tribe will have a special float in the parade called "Water is Life" to highlight the value of water.