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Mendhi hands by Pushpa Jain. Photographer unknown. All rights reserved.Fish decoy. Photo by Pearl Yee Wong. All rights reserved.Embroidered dress detail. Photo by Pearl Yee Wong. All rights reserved.Cedar bird by Glen VanAntwerp. Photo by Al Kamuda. All rights reserved.
Michigan Heritage Awards

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Photo by John Qian

Photo by John Qian

Photo by John Qian

Lois LaFernier
1998 awardee, L'Anse (Baraga County), Ojibwa cultural and historic preservation leader

In the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Lois LaFernier (b. 1925) holds the prestigious position of storyteller. She has been described by fellow tribal members as "a sensitive, caring person who sees and responds to the needs of the community." (1) Despite physical limitations, Lois has dedicated her life to the health and education of others within her community, reaching out, whenever possible, to those outside of the tribal community.

A dominant member of the Ojibwa Senior Citizens, she helped the group implement a meal program for senior citizens and raise money for the operation of a private building. Her efforts to recruit tribal elders as bereavement volunteers were also successful.

Lois's sensitive persona was a priceless asset to her position at a local hospital nursery. She not only contributed to her family's needs, but also made the Native Americans feel as though they had a friend amidst the hospital staff. Fellow nurses considered her a valuable resource in transcultural issues involving health care.

A storyteller, Lois educates the community about Ojibwa methods of hunting and fishing, food preparation, history, and traditions in her column in Ojibwa News, the tribe's monthly newsletter. She also volunteers a column for the community's monthly health department newsletter; her writings use conventional tribal teaching to address health problems in contemporary society.

Lois's activities extend not only to the adults of the community, but to the youth as well. Serving as storyteller in summer youth programs held at her home and donating time to a group home for severely troubled children are just a few of the ways she reaches the younger generation.

(1) Haycock, Naomi. Letter of nomination. 1 December 1997.

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