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Detroit couple build Native American-inspired village in their backyard

Darlene A. White
Special to The Detroit News
Mary Pustelak walks through "The Outpost," a Native American-inspired village she and husband Robert Mounts built in their Detroit backyard.

Detroit — Surrounded by dozens of miniature American flags, a small white home on Detroit’s west side has a hidden story in the backyard.

A Detroit couple, Mary Pustelak and Robert Mounts, wanted to bring awareness of the area's Native American heritage to the neighborhood through art and entertainment, so they decided on their own to build a Native American-inspired village at 6224 Minock St. 

“Today, I’m feeling a lot of mixed emotions about our grand opening of our Native American village,” said Mounts, who is Native American. “There is not many Native American things in the city of Detroit, and a lot of people seem to forget about our Native American culture, especially in the city of Detroit.”

The small backyard village is full of trees, shrubbery and a grass landscape that gives the ideal setting of a village.

There are three tepee tents placed throughout the yard. Two of the tepees are medium-sized with a cream-color finish. The last tepee is small with tribal designs covering the outside. There are also two Michigan-made, handcrafted, brown log cabins for visitors to experience.

Robert Mounts and Mary Pustelak have built "The Outpost," a Native American-inspired village in their Detroit backyard.

“I want our neighbors to take advantage of what’s right in their neighborhood and to learn something new," Mounts said.

Pustelak said it did not take long to make their vision of a village a reality.

“We probably worked on this project for roughly six months and accomplished so much,” she said. “We are nowhere near done. We have so much more that we are adding to the village.”

Pustelak and Mounts recently celebrated the opening of their Native American village project by offering a tour to family, friends and people from their neighborhood.

“I cannot pick my favorite thing about the project,” Mounts said. “I love everything that we’ve done, but sometimes looking at those tepees … well, it makes me really sad. Just to know that so many years ago there were tepees and wigwams throughout Michigan and Native Americans lived inside of them just to create shelter is what makes me sad.”

"We will be making crafts with visitors, telling stories and they can even picnic on our lawn," Pustelak said.

Pustelak says they are planning to add additional tepee tents and a chicken coop for display only inside their village.  

“We are also turning one of our wooden cabins into an old-fashioned general store,” she explained. “If you ever watched the television show 'Little House on the Prairie,' that’s the style we are aiming for with our store.”  

"Our neighbors are curious to know what is going on in our backyard as we add different items. We want them to know they are invited to come into our backyard at any time to visit the Native American Village we have designed.” 

In the backyard, visitors can learn about the history of the Native American people and their heritage, she said.

“We will be making crafts with visitors, telling stories and they can even picnic on our lawn,” Pustelak said. “Great thing about our Native American village is that it is free of charge, absolutely no fee to come inside and look around. People can also make this their place to have a wedding if they choose.”

Mayor Mike Duggan stopped last month to walk around and see the creation.

“I’m impressed with their vision. This is what Detroit is all about,” Duggan said. “There is a lot of diversity here. I just left from a group that is making picnic tables for parks in this neighborhood and now over to this group that is celebrating the Native American heritage.”

For tour information and hours of the Native American village, call (313) 213-0746.