Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

June 16, 2013

Terry Wooten: Native heirlooms spark imagination

When I was 6 years old Grandpa Helmboldt gave me an old Indian pipe made out of wild cherry wood. That same summer he gave me a flint spearhead he’d found in the woods on a mound north of a ghost town. He always said an inner voice told him to look down while rabbit hunting.

The pipe was older than great-grandma who could remember when Woodland Indians migrated through every spring and fall. The spearhead was from a time so long ago even Indians couldn’t remember. I could hold the sharp stone in my hand and imagine.

Grandpa’s gifts touched something he must’ve seen inside me. I’m not a pipe carrier like in the following poems, but the heirlooms affected my life and my art. Grandpa had a way of sparking my imagination that set me on a creative path. Today, the pipe and the spearhead are two of my most prized possessions.

Another Summer Solstice is close. Stone Circle begins its 30th year of poetry and song on June 22. Now is a good time to acknowledge a nature-based, holistic lifestyle.

After receiving tribal consent, J Sam II participated in my Brethren Elders Project, along with seven other community elders. The eight elders were interviewed by Brethren High School students, and the project was

sponsored by SEEDS.

All the students wrote poems from their interviews, but the three below are mine.

A big hug goes to Chelsea Hummon Nester and Ben Parsons, the Brethren SEEDS coordinators, for gathering the elders and students, and making this event happen.

Poet Bard Terry Wooten has been performing and conducting writing workshops in schools for 29 years. He is also the creator of Stone Circle, a triple ring of boulders featuring poetry, storytelling and music on his property north of Elk Rapids. Learn more at

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