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THE GRAND RAPIDS PRESS

FRIDAY, JULY 23, 2010

Safe passage: At left, Lynn Johnson, an educator with Project Lakewell, portrays Mukwa LaFemme, a half-Ojibwa, half-French fur trader from the 1700s as she offers a prayer before setting out Thursday on the Grand River from Saranac. Above, a bald eagle flies from its perch as Project Lakewell’s “big mouth” birch-bark canoe passes.

‘THIS IS SACRED WATER’ STORY AND PHOTOS BY REX LARSEN THE GRAND RAPIDS PRESS

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roject Lakewell joined the Grand River Expedition 2010 Thursday — helping those traveling from Saranac to Ada Township also journey into the 1700s by depicting some of the people who may have used the river in that era. The group’s members also conveyed the message of protecting and preserving the water and wildlife. Volunteers share in the paddling and history lessons, and do it attired in the clothing of the time. Project Lakewell director Lynn Johnson said she portrays “Bear Woman, a wealthy fur trader, half Ojibwa, half French.” Looking at the river as it flowed through Lowell, Johnson said: “This is sacred water. We used to drink it, and it was a highway that brought people together.”

Quite a sight: A family watches from the banks of the Grand River as Project Lakewell’s birch-bark canoe dubbed Gabagouache passes by with its crew of French fur traders, English captives, a French-Ojibwa woman and member of the Wendat tribe.

Living history: Ray Drysdale, of Albion, portrays Sinnanatha (“Big Fish”), a fur trader from the 1700s, as he pilots the Project Lakewell “big mouth” down the Grand. Drysdale is an educator bringing history alive with Project Lakewell, based in the northeastern Lower Peninsula town of Onaway.

Past and present: The reproduction birchbark canoe of Project Lakewell, foreground, shares the Grand River on Thursday with modern kayaks and canoes.

A rest: Dressed as a French fur trader from the 1700s, Mike Judd, of Portland, takes a drink before setting off down the Grand. Judd and other members of Project Lakewell joined the Grand River Expedition 2010 at Saranac for the final days paddling to Lake Michigan.

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Grand Journey 17