A monumental new sculpture honoring local Native American culture now stands in Ah-Nab-Awen Park.
“Manidoo Bawating” (pronounced Ma-ni-doo Baa-wa-ting) is an 11-foot-tall steel sculpture custom-designed to represent and honor important symbols and unique traditions of the Native American community that thrived along the Grand River and throughout the Great Lakes region.
“Manidoo Bawating” in indigenous Anishinaabemowin language means “Spirit of the Rapids.”
Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians Chairman Ron Yob will support the introduction of the sculpture with storytelling events that share traditions of how local Native American culture tracked time and seasonality around Wolf Moon and Snow Moon, the full moons in January and February, respectively.
The new sculpture and storytelling events feature prominently in the World of Winter Festival kicking off January 15, 2021, in Downtown Grand Rapids.
“The Manidoo Bawating sculpture and our storytelling events serve to remind us of the rich human culture and community who originally settled this place we call Grand Rapids,” Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians Chairman Ron Yob said.
“A vital and active Native community continues to call this place home today. So this is more than an opportunity to reflect on our history. This is also a moment to continue raising the visibility and awareness of Native tradition while we work together to find new ways to honor the coexistence of all the people and cultures that give life to our community.”
“Manidoo Bawating” is the latest purposeful gesture to acknowledge and honor indigenous culture along the Grand River in Downtown.
A 7-foot bronze sculpture of Noahquageshik, or Chief Noonday, a leader of the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians, was dedicated in 2010 near the Blue Bridge outside of the Eberhard Center at Grand Valley State University.
The Grand River Bands, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and the City of Grand Rapids in 2018 dedicated a Plum Tree Memorial commemorating the sacred Native American plum orchard that once stood on the west bank of the Grand River.
That memorial, located near the Grand Rapids Public Museum, includes an original sculpture piece – created by contemporary Anishinaabe artist Jason Quigno in his Asinaabe Studios – describing the significance of the plum tree to Native peoples.
The ANISHINAABEK mural vividly depicting Native symbolism and culture recently was installed along the steps leading down to the Grand River from Pearl Street and the tunnel under the street. Local artist Alan Compo, a member of the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians, conceived and painted the expansive mural.
A park space on the west bank of the Grand River as it flows under Fulton Street marks the site of the ancestorial Ottawa Indian village. The space, a registered Michigan Historical Site, was established through a partnership of the Grand River Bands and Grand Valley State University.
The movement to restore and revitalize the Grand River corridor thru the urban core also features numerous efforts to recognize, respect and rehabilitate indigenous relationships with the land and river.
This includes but not is limited to establishing a proper ceremonial space in Ah-Nab-Awen Park, promoting native plantings along the river’s edge and thru dam removals re-establishing critical habitat for the sturgeon – a fish species of significant spiritual importance to the Grand River Bands.
“The opportunity to revitalize the relationship between indigenous peoples and all Grand Rapidians is central to our collective work of building a more inclusive, vibrant, resilient and sustainable community,” said Tim Kelly, President & CEO of Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.
“This new public art piece, situated along riverfront land traditionally stewarded by the Grand River Bands, will further help to share and raise the visibility of Native voices, stories, culture and wisdom. It will also serve as another creative way to help all Grand Rapidians better understand the longstanding history of this place we call Downtown Grand Rapids.”
The public art piece, commissioned by the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority, intentionally represents and honors important symbolism and tradition. This includes:
- Turtle. The Turtle is the clan totem of the tribe. Many of the tribes’ stories and lessons come from the turtle.
- Maple Leaves. Represent the essential role of Maple trees to the existence of the tribe in the Grand Rapids area.
- Sweetgrass. A medicinal herb used in ceremonies by the tribe.
- Strawberries. Resemble the human heart and are the first to bloom in the spring to bring in the new season.
- Water. Represents the rapids, where the original Grand River peoples and other living creations made their home.
- Weavings. Represent the basketry made by the tribe from indigenous materials.
- The Medicine Wheel. Used to help define many teachings of the tribe.
- The Three Flames. Represent the Confederacy of the Three Fires, the Ottawa, the Ojibway, and the Pottawatomi.
The Manidoo Bawating sculpture, on temporary display in Ah-Nab-Awen Park, will move to a permanent location to be announced in the summer of 2021.