Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe Remembering Charmaine Shawana

The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe is celebrating one of its members for a life well-lived.

Charmaine Shawana passed away last week but left behind quite the legacy.

“She was always about kicking you in the pants and patting you on the back because she knew what was inside of you,” said William Johnson, Interim Director of Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture & Lifeways. “She always demanded the very best of you as a colleague and friend.”

Shawana died at 67, but her contributions to the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe will live on forever.

“She was one of the life-givers of our tribe, one of the water protectors. She would go into ceremonies, and she would be encouraging to tell our youth that you need to give back to your community,” said Joseph Sowmick, Interim Public Relations Manager, Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe. “That’s a good message wherever you’re from.”

Shawana severed on four tribal councils. From 2003 to 2005, she was the treasurer, and from 2009 to 2013, she was a council member.

“She was an amazing piece to the puzzle when it came to our governing authority,” said Johnson.

Shawana also helped design and develop the Ziibiwing Center in Mt. Pleasant.

“Education was very important to her to gain it for herself and to share it with others and to care and encourage others to continue on in their educational path. It was a part of who she was,” said Johnson.

Even though Shawana is gone, she will continue to educate people. All of the text around the museum was written by her.

“Part of our teachings is to be a good ancestor and for her to be able to go ahead and to share the rich teachings and put them down in writing. That’s a blessing for our tribe for years to come,” said Sowmick.

“She was a wonderful storyteller. She made sure that she understood the oral traditions of the people. And it was her duty, her life’s work, to be able to share it with her fellow tribal citizens. And our tribal descendants and the people of the world,” said Johnson.

The Ziibiwing Center is open Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 4:30 PM.