GRANDVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — Two West Michigan organizations are partnering to bring a free series on the stories of indigenous people.
The Voices of Indigenous Peoples for Community and Healing series will take place at the Grandville Branch of KDL on Oct. 18, Oct. 25 and Nov. 1, in partnership with Kent District Library and World Affairs Council of Western Michigan.
The two have partnered annually for the last seven or eight years for series that tackle “global issues from a local perspective,” said Erica Kubik, Ph.D., the director of programming and events for World Affairs Council of Western Michigan.
Past topics have included water safety, urban planning and civil discourse.
Hennie Vaandrager, the manager of outreach and programming for KDL, said some of the past events were so popular they were standing-room only.
“We love working with World Affairs Council,” she said. “They’re nonpartisan and they bring really pertinent and important topics that our patrons care about, and they provide a space for discussion over those topics.”
She said she knows the council and the speakers it is bringing will approach the tough topics with sensitivity. The hour-long talks will cover Indigenous boarding schools, missing and murdered Indigenous women and the US-Canada border.
Kubik said a challenge of doing global programming is there’s always more that could be covered. They picked the first topic, boarding schools, as it “really gets to some of the historical challenges that native folks faced.”
“Of course, Michigan had a long tradition of boarding schools in the state, and they operated into the 1980s, which is a bit of an astonishing fact,” she said.
Indigenous boarding schools have been making headlines both in the United States and in Canada, which is dealing with some of the aftermath, Kubik said.
Patricia Shackleton, the executive director of the Anishinaabegamig Cultural Learning Center, will speak on that topic. Kubik said she has a lot of experience looking at the physical and mental health consequences of those boarding schools.
The second topic, murdered and missing Indigenous women, has received some national attention but “not nearly enough coverage,” Kubik said.
“Historically, indigenous women have been at risk and at danger of being victims of violence,” she said.
Heather Bruegl, an Indigenous activist and historian, will be speaking on that topic.
The final event will look at how the U.S.-Canada border impacts Indigenous people.
“One of these things that we don’t think about very often is that tribal sovereignty oftentimes extends beyond our national borders,” Kubik said.
Guntram Herb and Patricia LeBon Herb will speak at the final event about the 25,000-mile journey they took along the border, from Maine to Alaska, researching what it means to cross the border.
KDL and World Affairs Council of Western Michigan both hope people will walk away from the events more informed and educated.
“We want folks to be more informed, more educated about our native communities here in Michigan and worldwide, and taking that education and being better informed about potential policy issues that might come up in this in this field and so that you can make informed choices as citizens,” Kubik said.
The series is part of a larger effort by KDL to partner with local cultural and ethnic groups. KDL will also be hosting “Firekeeper’s Daughter” author Angeline Boulley on Thursday from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
“When we want to partner with communities, we want to walk alongside them, we want to share their voices. We want to really shine a light on the folks that are living in our communities and this is one way we do it,” Vaandrager said.
For more information on the Voices of Indigenous Peoples for Community and Healing series, go to kdl.org.