Grand Entry, Grand Marshal: First Nation Leads Parade of Nations

By Cyndi Perkins | Published

Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, always the first entry in the Parade of Nations procession, also opens the multicultural festival with a dancing and drumming exhibition. This year, the tribe takes on another leadership role: Tribal Council President Warren "Chris" Swartz Jr. is the 2018 Grand Marshal.

Parade of Nations and Multicultural Festival, founded and organized by Michigan Technological University, takes place Saturday, September 15, beginning at 11 a.m. in Hancock and culminating in the festival at Dee Stadium in Houghton. This year's food-and-music theme, "Global Beats, International Treats," is rooted in the event's beginnings: Michigan Tech's Betty Chavis was inspired to demystify the unfamiliar aromas of international cooking in the community, and unite people from all countries through an appreciation of tasty food from around the world. 

The global beats include the traditional drums of KBIC; the sovereign nation has long been part of the Parade of Nations and Multicultural Festival soundscape. And another first: the tribe's float entries have taken top spots in the community category the past two years. 

A mother and her little daughter walk in native american regalia walk next to a float with branches on it on a downtown street outside in a parade
KBIC makes participation in the Parade of Nations and Multicultural Fest a multigenerational experience.  
A young girl stands and two women elders of Keweenaw Bay Indian Community sit on the tribe's float entry as is it pulled down a street outside downtown
 The first-place float in the community category in the 2017 Parade of Nations.  

Swartz, who recently agreed to serve as 2018 Parade of Nations Grand Marshal, was born on the south shore of Keweenaw Bay in Zeba, on KBIC reservation lands. In his biography, the devoted family man describes his five years of duty in the U.S. Air Force as a major turning point in his life. The former tribal police officer and game warden, who followed in his father's footsteps as a carpenter, has served as a KBIC council member since 2001—10 of those 17 years as president.

Those who would like to understand and witness traditional ceremonial drumming and dancing don't have to wait until Parade of Nations. The 2018 annual Keweenaw Bay Maawanji-iding, or Pow-wow, is this weekend, July 27-29, at the Ojibwa Campgrounds off US-41 in Baraga. Like the Parade of Nations, the public is welcome and admission is free.  

Saluting Our Copper Country Strong Community

The 2018 Parade of Nations is also putting flood recovery efforts first. In the wake of mid-June flash flooding, the Parade of Nations Committee has decided not to seek donations from the Copper Country's many small businesses this year. While the event relies on generous donors of all sizes to make it affordable and family-friendly, setting priorities based on community need is important, says fund-raising chair Bob Wenc.

"For this year, our 29th, we will adapt to the resources available, and do our best to have a great festival. After the heartache and suffering, the hard work of volunteers and the generosity of so many who have given time, money and supplies, this community deserves a fun and joy-filled celebration that brings us together," he wrote in a message to small local businesses.

"We look forward to seeing you at the 2018 Parade of Nations and Multicultural Festival, 'Global Beats, International Treats.' Please keep us in your budget for next year. Together, we are Copper Country Strong and proud of it!"

The list of major donors is still coming together for this year, Wenc says, with many campus and community contributors coming forward. "We're so grateful for the generous support." 

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 54 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.

Last Modified 10:44 p.m. December, 11 2018