M-Times Alum Shares Inside Look of Bay Mills Indian Community in New Documentary

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Video Still Courtesy of Tim Jagielo

A male fancy dancer waits to perform at a summer pow wow.

Bella Biafore, Writer

Journalist and M-Times Alum Timothy Jagielo will be screening his newest documentary at UM-Flint on Thursday, Jan. 23. 

Jagielo is a 2009 graduate of UM-Flint and former photo editor of The Michigan Times. His documentary being shown is titled, “The Seventh Fire: UP Michigan Natives Reclaim Their Past to Save Their Future.”

The documentary focuses on the Bay Mills Indian Community, a reservation in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with a specific highlight on the Ojibwe tribe. It follows their efforts to reclaim the traditional Anishinaabeg culture during their “seventh fire,” which the film is named after. 

The “seventh fire”, or seventh generation of the Ojibwe tribe, is working toward protecting the tribe’s traditions so they may be passed onto future generations. 

Jagielo’s mission for this film was to make sure the modern story of the Ojibwe tribe was told. Following themes of language, music, arts, ceremony and family, the takeaway is not only awareness but also an appreciation for what these native people do and why they do it.

“The Seventh Fire” was originally debuted at the Royal Starr Film Festival in downtown Royal Oak last summer and later screened at the Soo Film Fest in Sault Ste. Marie in the fall. It has also been used as cultural training for Department of Defense contractors and employees for Native History Month. 

While Jagielo’s first angle for the documentary was to focus on native artisan crafts such as ash basket making, he soon found himself engulfed in the culture of the Bay Mills Indian Community, realizing so many of its components led up to something bigger. 

I actually originally wanted to make a punchy (short), visually lush project, working with my recording artist friend Alexa Dexa in the UP. I keep saying, ‘it spiraled out of control,’ in that it got bigger and bigger as a project, ending up as a full-length documentary with about 2,500 connected media files,” said Jagielo. 

He went on to say, “It was in an interview with Brimley Schools’ native studies teacher Sonja Killips, that made me realize all these things were part of a bigger movement to preserve their uniqueness as Anishinaabeg (native person/people). Things like language and customs would fade away without their efforts.”

This is Jagielo’s third full-length documentary, with his two others focused on Benghazi, Libya post-revolution and the Material Aid Foundation in Holly Township, Michigan. 

Jagielo currently works as a media editor, chief photographer and video producer for the Tri-County Times in Fenton. He also does freelance video production. 

“ … I wouldn’t have become a journalist, or a photojournalist without my experience [at M-Times]. It gave me the foundation to learn and be ready for my first internships. I met lifelong friends there, and it even led to my career today,” said Jagielo. “It’s where I realized I wanted to be a journalist. Before the journalism program at UM-Flint, and before M-Times, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do.” 

The film, which is 70 minutes long, will be playing in the Kiva (126 UCEN) from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

A trailer has been released for those interested in getting a sneak peek of the film before watching.