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Project will share stories of Native Americans' urban experiences

Nov 12, 2014

Chief Noonday sculpture at GVSU
Credit Bonnie Westbrook / Flickr

The Urban Relocation Project after World War II created one of the largest movements of Indians in American history. The idea was to lure Native Americans to big cities, where jobs were supposedly plentiful.  

A new project will collect the stories of the urban Native American experience in West Michigan. It's called Gi-gikinomaage-min, which translates to "We Are All Teachers." 

Belinda Bardwell is with the Grand Valley State University Native American Advisory Board and a member of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians. Levi Rickert is also a member of the GVSU Native American Advisory Board. They joined us on Stateside today.

Bardwell and Rickert say project has some urgency because Native American communities are quickly losing elders, and it's important to preserve their stories and knowledge so younger generations can learn from their past.

Rickert says his grandparents moved to Grand Rapids for better opportunities, and in his family’s case, the move was positive. His sister graduated from the University of Michigan and became the first Native American dentist in the country. This is in contrast to his grandfather, who Rickert says had a fourth-grade education.

Bardwell says her mother experienced racism while growing up in Petoskey, and moved to Detroit before finally moving to Grand Rapids, where Bardwell was raised.

The public is invited to attend a campus dialogue on Wed., Nov. 19 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at GVSU's Allendale Campus. You can get details on the events calendar here

*Hear the full interview above.