SYRACUSE — Mark Deister believes in honoring his country and — though “I am not Indian” — honoring Native Americans. “It’s the right thing to do,” he said.
So with the help of the local Miami Indians, he bought an authentic 14-foot totem pole with carvings of a falcon and a woman’s head and will host a totem pole raising ceremony from 7:15 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5, on his property at 9553 Hiawatha Lane, Syracuse, on the peninsula of Lake Papakeechie south of Lake Wawasee.
The free public event actually begins at 5 p.m. when “at least 30” members of the Miami Indians — including a chief, historian, medicine man and drum corps — will be on hand to answer questions about the tribe’s culture and the meaning of raising the totem pole.
The ceremony will include a formal dance accompanied by the drum corps and educational commentary about the event’s significance.
For safety reasons the totem pole has already been erected in a concrete base by the lakeshore on the east side of his property. Three 8-foot poles, which he purchased last November in Traverse City, Mich., have been placed on the property’s south side. All poles are highlighted by spotlights.
“It’s all about the Miami Indians and honoring their Chief Papakeechie, who lived near where my house is.”
The ceremony will include burying a time capsule near the totem pole.
Safety is paramount to Deister. He will provide free water and ice to attendees, has “put up about a dozen caution signs that the ground is uneven” and installed a rail along the eastern shoreline “so children don’t get hurt.” After dusk the area will also be lit with tiki torches.
Some of the tribe members will arrive by canoe or kayak and some will walk to the event, according to Deister. “We got permission from the state that people can park their cars on Hatchery Road. There is room for about 30 or 40 cars.”
To get to the property, take Hatchery Road, turn right at the DNR office “across the road from the public access boat ramp on Lake Wawasee” and follow the signs for the event along Hiawatha Lane, said Deister. He has a 14-passenger van to shuttle attendees between their cars and the event site.
Deister also uses his property to welcome missionaries during their sabbaticals. “I support 27 missions around the world,” he said.
For more information, call Deister at (260) 438-2000.