Boxing, Baking and playing the Ojibwe flute

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I met Michael Laughing Fox Charette just as his car died.

That’s him in the photo above in his Superior, Wisc. apartment/workshop in a photo taken by Derek Montgomery on May 10th, 2012.

Being without transportation is an unwelcome development in anyone’s life, and no less so for Michael.

The 33-year-old flute player and member of the Red Cliff Band of Ojibwe needs wheels to get to his music gigs.

And, not incidentally, to his day job as a baker.

It’s the most recent challenge in a life filled with ups and downs.

Michael says the good times include growing up in one of North America’s most scenic locales – Lake Superior’s south shore near Bayfield, Wisc. and the Apostle Islands. He calls childhood there like an endless game of tag as the kids raced around the reservation.

However, the economy of Red Cliff is not robust. Poverty has been like a boat anchor, dragging people down, and the problems of drug and alcohol abuse are ever present.

Michael says when he was a kid, the family didn’t have enough money to pay for piano lessons which might have jump started his interest in music.

Boxing was another matter. Coaching was available and he excelled, learning discipline that gave him direction.

Later he taught himself baking and flute playing.

Michael learned baking on the job in a Bayfield coffee shop.

He lived alone nearby in the woods where he began to teach himself the traditional wood flute.

That was ten years ago.

Michael tells the story of his life and plays the flute in schools – not too long ago he talked to American Indian students in several Minneapolis schools – and he’d like to do more. You can hear more of Michael’s story tonight in our latest Minnesota Sounds & Voices story on All Things Considered.

He’s starting to get playing gigs on stage including one on Saturday, July 7th, in Duluth at the Twin Ports Bridge music festival and another on July 11th at the Big Top Chautauqua near Bayfield, Wisc.

This all plays into Michael’s plan to pursue his music as his life’s work – assuming he can figure out the transportation issue.

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