Native American Heritage Fund grant to help GRCC students learn about Anishinaabe history, heritage

Oct. 1, 2019 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. Grand Rapids Community College students can learn more about Anishinaabe history and heritage through a grant from the Native American Heritage Fund.  

The $5,285 grant will fund a trip to the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinaabe Culture and Lifeways in Mount Pleasant and a speaker on Native American history, heritage and culture.

About 0.5 percent of GRCC students identify as Native Americans, according to GRCC Institutional Research and Planning, and the college has an active Native American Student Organization. The 60-member NASO, which is open to all students, has hosted film screenings and discussion panels, taken part in a Ghost Supper, and participated in cultural activities with preschoolers in the Phyllis Fratzke Early Childhood Learning Laboratory.

“The traditional Native medicine wheel has four quadrant colors – yellow, black, red and white – that represent the four directions,” said Rachel Beecher, NASO vice president-treasurer. “For this program, the wheel quadrants represent truth, talk, teach and tell.

“The Native American Student Organization’s goal is to shed light on the truth about Anishinaabe historic past, loss of land, language, food sovereignty, and the current state of First Nation Indigenous Peoples within the greater Grand Rapids area. After seeing the Ziibiwing Center and learning the truth about its past as the former Mount Pleasant Industrial Indian School, we will connect with this historic past. By talking and increasing transparency concerning social injustices and racial disparities, we continue to celebrate our diversity at GRCC, the most inclusive place in the area.”

The grant-funded trip to the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinaabe Culture and Lifeways will be open to NASO members, student organizations affiliated with NASO, area tribal education leaders, and GRCC leadership and staff. The event, which will include tours, educational activities, lectures and a regalia dance performance, will take place in November to coincide with National American Indian Heritage Month.

The Native American Speakers Forum, planned for April 20, 2020, will be open to the public. Expert speakers will share stories and lead participants through a discussion of colonial history and ways of beginning the reconciliation process. NASO will work with the Ziibiwing Center, the Gun Lake Tribe Band of Pottawatomi Indians and other community leaders on organizing the free event.

Grand Rapids Community College has been offering educational opportunities in West Michigan for more than 100 years. Established in 1914, the college offers degree courses, certification and training programs, and workshops and personal enrichment classes. Offerings are held on GRCC’s downtown Grand Rapids campus, and at several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties, as well as through distance learning.

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