Onominese Indian Cemetery in Leelanau County is more than a cemetery restored.
A reconnection like Monday's Memorial Day and rededication service there is no small feat.
It took a family dream inspired decades ago by the stories of elders.
It took spiritual and cultural tradition that honors elders.
It took groups of young people and other volunteers organized through the nearby Northport Indian Mission United Methodist Church two summers to cut the tall grasses and clear away dense bushes and brush.
It took a grant from the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians to pay for the surveying, legal expenses and maintenance equipment.
For me, something beautiful and important was happening as some 60 people gathered Monday morning to honor the estimated 175 people buried there during the 1800s and 1900s — a time that spans the federal treaty era, assimilation policies and boarding schools that stripped American Indians of spiritual traditions, language, heritage and culture.
Indeed, it was illegal for American Indians to practice their spiritual traditions openly until well into the 20th century.
On Monday, birds sang. Flags flapped in a gentle wind as the American Legion Eagletown Post #120 honor guard stood at attention in a long line for services conducted by the Rev. Mike Peters, of Grand Rapids, and Tom John, pastor of the mission church, which is the cemetery's caretaker.
Medicine Lodge singers Shocko Hall, father Wallace Hall and 8-year-old son Savante Hall, plus Karman Two-Crow, sang a "traveling song" in tribute to the cemetery's long-buried residents.
Linda Woods, an honor guard member, said a prayer in Odawa and English. Steve Alguire, a Vietnam vet and Eagletown post adjutant, played "Taps" in salute to all soldiers who have served in America's wars.
Valerie Anderson Maidens, whose family was deeply involved in the project, read a poem.
"This is so special to honor our native brothers and sisters who have walked on," Peters said.
Many people took shredded tobacco from a dish and sprinkled it on the few marked graves as well as the 175 unidentified burial spots market by white crosses.
I cannot begin to imagine what the service and rededication ceremony must have been like for the descendants, but something Rosemary Antoine said in a short conversation afterward offered a glimpse.
"I am so happy," she said of the restoration. "We have found more ancestors buried on the original land they walked on. Now, we can come here and visit them. It feels so good."
See more photos of the cemetery dedication at photos.record-eagle.com
Loraine Anderson can be reached at email@example.com or 933-1468.