Program sheds new light on ‘Mounds’

Grand River Band of Ottawa Indians’ Tribal Chairman Ron Yob. GRPM courtesy photo.

The Grand Rapids Public Museum is home to more than 250,000 artifacts that tell the unique history of Kent County. It is also responsible for protecting the site known as the Norton Mounds, a national historic landmark, and one of the few surviving indigenous burial mound groups in the region.

Norton Mounds. Grand Rapids Public Museum courtesy photo.

As the current caretaker of the Mounds, the GRPM is consulting local tribes to develop a consensus on how to best care for and interpret this sacred place. As part of its ongoing community-based programming, the museum will present “GR Stories -The Grand River Burial Mounds, The Place Where Our Ancestors Rest.” 

This event, designed to expand public knowledge and appreciation of the Mounds from an indigenous perspective, is scheduled to take place Saturday, March 25, 4 – 5:30 p.m. in the GRPM’s Meijer Theater, 272 Pearl Street, NW. The GRPM’s Anishinaabe Curator, Jannan Cotto, will provide updates on the Grand River Burial Mounds Interpretation Initiative, a partnership that includes the GRPM, the City of Grand Rapids and regional tribes. The event will feature resentations by Grand River Band of Ottawa Indians’ Tribal Chairman Ron Yob and Community Engagement Manager for the City of Grand Rapids and former Associate Professor at Grand Valley State University  Dr. Andrea Riley-Mukavetz (Chippewa of Thames). 

Jannan Cotto. GRPM courtesy photo.

“We are excited that Chairman Ron Yob will be joining us to share tribal perspectives on the mounds and the ancestors, as well as how tribal communities have maintained relationships with the mounds site over time,” said Jannan Cotto, Anishinaabe Curator at the GRPM. “We are also very excited that indigenous scholar Andrea Riley-Mukavetz will share insights and connections she is making through her sabbatical research project, focusing on trail marker trees and burial mounds.” 

Constructed during the Middle Woodland period approximately 2,000 years ago, the Mounds are historically significant to the area. They were listed on the Michigan State Register of Historic Sites in 1957. In 1966, they were added to the National Register of Historic Places. Over the years they have been subject to multiple owners, vandalism and attempts to turn the site into a tourist attraction. 

Andrea Riley Mukavetz. GRPM courtesy photo.

Free registration for “GR Stories -The Grand River Burial Mounds, The Place Where Our Ancestors Rest” opens March 7 and is available here, or in person at the GRPM reception desk on the day of the program. For additional information including hours of operation, admission fees, and exhibit/event listings, please visit

The program is being offered through a Telling the Full History Preservation Fund grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and National Endowment for the Humanities. Made possible with support from NEH through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the Telling the Full History grant program helps interpret and preserve historic places of importance to underrepresented communities across states and territories of the United States. With $2.5 million in grants awarded across 39 states to 80 organizations, these projects demonstrate how preservation is a powerful tool for advancing justice and equity, and expanding the vitally important humanities infrastructure of our nation.

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