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Native American history come to life

July 10, 2018

MICHIGAN CITY – The annual Native American History Day celebration welcomed dozens of visitors to Friendship Botanic Gardens Saturday.

It was a treat for the senses: a Native American gardening expert educated the crowd on various foods used by indigenous people, while venison stew and a bison roast cooked over an open flame nearby.

Colorful crops, artifacts and books adorned one table; and soft animal pelts covered another.

While children hand-stamped leather bracelets and keychains and explored the wigwam and teepee, light drumming could be heard coming from the souvenir “trading post.”

“We do this to give people a little bit of an idea of what early living was like,” said Jude Rakowski, a volunteer at the gardens who organizes the Native American Heritage Day event each year. She also regularly tends the American Indian garden and helps with several others.

“The corn, beans, pumpkins and squash you see here are all grown in these gardens,” Rakowski said. “We’ve got medicines, edibles and even a little tobacco growing. It’s just a small glimpse of what they did in the 1800s and earlier.”

The Feijoo sisters from Illinois visited the gardens with their parents Saturday.

The eldest sister, 21-year-old Daniella Feijoo, said, “We’re on vacation in the area, saw an ad for the event and came to check it out. Our dad is a chef so he’s really into (the food demonstration).”

Isabella Feijoo, the youngest sister at age 13, said her favorite part of the event was grating corn in an interactive, hands-on exhibit.

“I really liked learning about all the different spices and types of corn. I didn’t know there were so many,” said 19-year-old Adriana Feijoo.

Sofia Feijoo, age 16, said, “Last year, we went to the (National Museum of Natural History) and (National Museum of the American Indian) in Washington, DC. They were interesting, but not as real as what they’re doing here. It’s really cool to get to see this.”

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