The success of the Grand Traverse Stewardship Initiative depends upon the strong connection between GTSI students and the community partners who engage with each team. Community partner, Hank Bailey gives generously of his time and energy to share his culture and unique environmental perspective with students to help deepen their relationship with the earth and their place in history.
Hank is an Anishinaabe and a Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa & Chippewa Indians tribal member. He is Odawa (English word, Ottawa) and a member of the Black Wolf Clan. Hank is also a father, grandfather, Elder, and traditional dancer and works for the Grand Traverse Band (GTB) Natural Resources Department as a Fish & Wildlife Technician as well as the Natural Resources Department Liaison.
Hank has been visiting Stewardship Initiative classrooms and sharing his view of what it means to “Walk in a Good Way”. In early February, he spoke with the GTSI students at Cherry Knoll Elementary.
During the last week of February, Hank spent two days at East Middle School speaking with 8th grade GTSI students in Mary Brisbois’ and Than Dykstra’s Earth Science classes.
Teacher, Mary Brisbois said, “A big thank you to Hank Bailey for spending two days with East Middle School 8th grade earth science students. Hank shared stories about the Native American perspective in relation to Mother Earth and her importance in our lives”.
Melissa Rassel, another GTSI teacher at East added, ” My Indian Education students that were at the talks also were very happy with his visit. It’s great when we can incorporate the differences our students have in our science curriculum”.
In an article called “Walking in a Good Way”, Hank Bailey says, “The Circle of Life encompasses everything that we know of and many, many things that are out of our view. As you picture a circle, think about the fact that the circle does not end. To keep harmony and balance in the world I must do what I can to help keep the circle intact by not destroying parts of it to the point that they are lost. To achieve this, one must have respect for all things”.
During Hank’s time with Cherry Knoll 4th graders, students enjoyed learning a few traditional dance steps so that they could learn how to “step lightly on the earth”.
Hank explains, “…it translates into a simple thing such as the way I dance as a traditional dancer. I have seen in Hollywood movies where it shows us stomping around on the ground while we are dancing. The truth is, we are taught to step lightly on Mother Earth just as we are to walk on Mother Earth in life without leaving much of a footprint. As little disturbance as possible is the way to go. So therefore we step as lightly as possible while dancing.
In the same article, Hank concludes with this: “In reflecting on what it means to “Walk in a Good Way”, it means many things and is truly a way of going through life with leaving the smallest footprint possible, and thinking carefully about the choices you make. The best way to get started is to take time out from our everyday lives to pause and look around ourselves. When we slow down it gives us time to think about how we are treating our fellow human beings, how are we treating Mother Earth and all she has to offer. Learn to be in balance, stay positive, work to be a helper and a nurturer. Strive to have a good rhythm/balance with all things. Leave as little disturbance as possible. Look for the beauty in Mother Nature’s creations.
In the Anishnaabe language the word “Megwetch” means Thank You. I would like to echo Mary Brisbois’ words above and say, “megwetch” to Hank, for helping GTSI students understand another way to be a good steward of the earth and will end this blog post with Hank’s words. “Ask yourself this question: Am I Walking in a Good Way?
Stay tuned for future GTSI Blog posts featuring our Community Partners!