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Mendhi hands by Pushpa Jain. Photographer unknown. All rights reserved.Fish decoy. Photo by Pearl Yee Wong. All rights reserved.Embroidered dress detail. Photo by Pearl Yee Wong. All rights reserved.Cedar bird by Glen VanAntwerp. Photo by Al Kamuda. All rights reserved.
Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Awards


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Cindi and Ruby John
2017 master artist and apprentice
Northport (Leelanau County)
Smoked fish preparation


Cindi John is a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Chippewa Indians. In addition to running her commercial fishing business, Treaty Fish Co., with her husband Ed, Cindi is an accomplished basketmaker, quillworker, and beadworker. She has been involved with her tribal fishery since 1982. She learned the trade from Jeeboo Sands, a tribal elder and Cindi’s great-great-uncle. He taught her to sew nets and prepare, brine, and smoke fish.  He also instructed her in the construction of a traditional 4’x4’ smoker, as well was what woods smoke fish the best. In 2013, Treaty Fish Co. became licensed to sell their smoked fish and do so from May-October at the Traverse City Farm Market. Their company was featured in a documentary short entitled 80-90 Feet, which was shown at the 2016 Traverse City Film Festival.

Apprentice Ruby John is Cindi’s daughter. She has been immersed in fishing culture since birth, and has hopes of being able to make smoked fish as delicious as her mother’s. She understands the value of preserving this tradition within her community. Aside from her interest in cultural foodways, Ruby is a talented fiddler, traveling the region to perform Irish, Canadian, and American old-time music at concerts and dances.

-Micah Ling


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