I recently attended the Grand Rapids Public Museum which is located on 272 Pearl Street NW at Grand Rapids in the state of Michigan.

Experience the Arts





I recently attended the Grand Rapids Public Museum which is located on 272 Pearl Street NW at Grand Rapids in the state of Michigan. The tour to the museum took place on September 7th which was on a Friday at 10 a.m. I was particularly interested in the Anishinabek: The People of This Place exhibit which focuses on the Native American people who lived around Michigan State. The art displayed in this exhibit uniquely identified with the direct descendants of the Potawatomi, Ojibwe, Ottawa and Chippewa people. According to the museum representatives, the decorative art pieces, tools, and weapons were donated by the Native families for public display. It is essential for the state of Michigan to maintain the heritage of the Native Americans as the name Michigan comes from the Indian word “mashigaame” which means big lake. (Garroutte, 2003) In the past years, Native American art was not considered fine art by many collectors and was instead viewed as ethnographic art.
Indigenous art has made a significant contribution to American culture and art. The pieces displayed portrayed the economic activities of the traditional tribes. The handcrafted pots and decorative pieces had impressions of animals on them. Hunting wild animals was a significant economic activity for the Native Americans, and it is present in their painted murals, ceramics, and skin-tanned bags. The art pieces displayed varied in colors, and others were more colorful especially the clothing and the painted murals. (Southall, 2011) Beadwork was a vital art material in the art of the Anishinabek people as it was present in their decorated clothing, baskets and dream catchers. The beads were also used on wampum belts, and the floral patterns often represented the different families.
The context of this exhibit is a combination of both the history and culture of the great Native American people of the state of Michigan. The different kinds of art pieces explain the way of life of the traditional tribes that lived around the great lake. Men are portrayed in the paintings while riding horses and hunting buffalos while women are tending to their children. This artwork explains the different gender roles in a traditional community. The use of beads in their clothing showed the influence of the European culture when the natives came in contact with these foreigners. It is a display of the way the Anishinabek people survived for a long time before the arrival of the white people using sustainable conditions of hunting and practicing agriculture. According to Wilson (2000), the three major tribes shared linguistic and cultural similarities and valued their connection with nature. This respect for life is apparent in all their artwork and goes a long way in upholding the concept of preservation of the environment.
My visit to the museum made me appreciate the role art has in the efforts of retaining culture identity especially to minority groups in the United States. The Native Americans make up for less than one percent of the American population. Majority of these people still live in Michigan, and their influence on the way of life on the American people is essential. The natives today find it difficult to identify with their traditions and Grand Rapids Public Museum has played a significant role in the appreciation of this rich culture. I am passionate about conservation and reducing pollution, and Anishinabek culture inspired me to be creative in making art that goes into this particular cause. The indigenous people of Michigan have in the past been involved in protesting controversial oil pipeline which was supposed to pass through the reserved land and presenting chances of leakage which would contaminate the water. (Harkin & Lewis, 2007) I intend on addressing major environmental issues in my future artwork with the same spirit and enthusiasm as the Anishinabek people.

Garroutte, E. M. (2003). Real Indians: identity and the survival of Native America. Univ of California Press.
Southall, N. (2011). Then and Now: Asserting Anishinabek Identity Through Indigenized Apparel.
Wilson, K. J. (2000). The role of mother earth in shaping the health of Anishinabek: A geographical exploration of culture, health and place (Doctoral dissertation, Queen’s University).
Harkin, M. E., & Lewis, D. R. (Eds.). (2007). Native Americans and the environment: Perspectives on the ecological Indian. U of Nebraska Press.