The Sand Ridge Nature Center has been in existence for a half-century, yet officials on Saturday turned to a ritual that far predates it to help celebrate the occasion.

Sand Ridge, which is overseen by the Cook County Forest Preserve District, had Leilane Linn – who identifies herself as a member of the Menominee tribe that used to live in what is now the south suburbs along with the Potawatomi – perform a blessing known as a “smudging.”

It entailed her burning a mixture of cedar, sweet grass and tobacco, then spreading the fumes around the area in front of the nature center’s Visitor’s Center.

Linn, who also is a lifelong Calumet City resident, asked the roughly 50 people on hand to witness the smudging to remain silent during the blessing. “This is like being in church,” she told them.

She views the ritual with its burning of the substances to create an aroma as being similar to attending a Catholic Church service. “You go to a Mass, and they burn incense,” she said.

Her service also included a prayer, which Linn performed both in English and in the Algonquin language used by her ancestors, that blessed the nature center as “a place of life, and a place of learning.”

Linn said that people of her tribe perform the ritual often, although not always with the degree of “pomp and circumstance” that she did on Saturday. “I smudge my dog, although not with this much ritual.”

And while she took the ceremony seriously, she also had her moments of humor, saying of the bright, sunny skies on Saturday, “I danced a ‘no-rain’ dance,” while adding of the 21 mph winds, “Now, I’m asking for no wind.”

Included in the day’s program that was meant to celebrate Sept. 23, 1962 when Sand Ridge opened as a Cook County-funded nature center were events portraying Native American games and dances, along with a display of cabins portraying the daily lives of the early white settlers to the area.

In that portion of the program was Zachary Yovich, a member of Boy Scout Troop 276 of Lansing, who is trying to build a covered wagon to donate to the nature center as part of their display. His troop has raised roughly $1,600 of the $2,500 they need to complete the project – which has been in the works for two years.

“I wanted to give people an idea how it felt to travel back then,” Yovich said of his project. (SOURCE)

A decendent of the Navaho, Dave Spencer, leads a group of dancers at the Sandridge Nature Center on Saturday at the Center's Archeology Days and 50th Anniversary.

With her praying table in the center of her dance, Menominee Indian Leilane Linn, kneels and prays for the Sandridge Nature Center and all attendees at the Archeology Days and 50th Anniversary of the center on Saturday. 

A red pipe stone formed from glacial movement on display at the Sandridge Nature Center's Archeology Days and 50th Anniversary on Saturday.

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