Local Cultural Historian is Thinking Grand

Grand Rapids native, cultural historian, and (as of last Friday) 2012 Baxter Award winner Kevin Finney is currently working on a grant-funded project, “Think Grand.” The project aims to educate and involve the community on the broad history of the Grand River.

Over the course of the three year project, students and teachers from the Goodwillie Environmental School and the Blandford School will be collaborating with local naturalists, historians, biologists, and cultural tradition bearers. Their goal is to provide an in depth understanding of the river’s ecological history, land use and development, and the diverse cultural groups that have occupied the river’s surrounding valley over time.

The project is being coordinated through the Great Lakes Lifeways Institute, which Kevin founded in 2009. From the beginning, Kevin had a vision to embrace and learn from the region’s cultural and biological diversity. The rationale behind this being that in order for our communities to protect and preserve our region, we must understand it’s uniqueness: historically, culturally, and ecologically.

Kevin is an expert in Native American history in the Great Lakes region, and has been educating the community for years. He helps kids build authentic birch-bark canoes and houses, teaches and writes books in the Pottawatomi language, and is a true outdoorsman.

Kevin’s immense knowledge has become widely known, as he is often hired by schools, museums, and historical sites from across the country. When he is not exploring in the woods, he may be giving local demonstrations to students on how Native Americans lived.

He also holds the title of research and education director of Ancient Pathways Cultural Resource Group. The group is dedicated to the preservation, promotion, and interpretation of Great Lakes Indian art, cultural heritage, and history.

To learn more about the Great Lakes Lifeways Institute, you can find them at www.lifewaysinstitute.org.

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