GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The City of Grand Rapids has been awarded a $75,000 Our Town grant to research, plan and integrate wayfinding, historical markers and art of original indigenous people into the “River for All” Grand River trail and restoration project.
The grant – through the National Endowment for the Arts – will help fund a series of interpretive monuments along the Grand River trail and a feature sculpture of Anishinaabe art at Ah-Nab-Awen Park, according to a news release Thursday.
Costs for the project are estimated at about $280,000 and will be raised through a future public fundraising campaign.
This project is part of an effort to ensure equity is a focal point for the city’s “River for All” river restoration and revitalization efforts.
Local indigenous tribes will be directly involved, owning and sharing their narrative and deciding how to express that through interpretive monuments and public art.
The city’s master plan specifically focuses on the Grand River, open space, the city’s heritage and urban design as important quality of life considerations.
“Acknowledgement of Grand Rapids’ original peoples has happened in a long series of one-off efforts over the decades – a mural here, a plaque there – but outside of the walls of the Public Museum, there is no comprehensive initiative to memorialize and honor the People of the Three Fires and their connection to this land,” said Doug Matthews, deputy city manager. “This will ensure that present and future generations will have an opportunity to understand the importance of the Grand River to its original peoples as we return the river to its original state – as it existed before colonization and industrialization of the riverfront took root.”
The project will be completed over the next two years in four phases, starting with capacity-building and engagement work this summer and fall.
Anishinaabe Circle and the Grand River Band of Ottawa Indians have been invited to take the leadership role in this phase of work, coordinating with tribal members and elders in the Grand Rapids community.