GRPM hires Anishinaabe Curator
Jannan Cotto has worked in indigenous education for 15 years. She told WGVU she’s excited to bring more opportunity for education into the West Michigan community
Grand Rapids Public Museum (GRPM) has announced Jannan Cotto as its Anishinaabe Curator.
The new position was added by GRPM to help ensure indigenous voices and perspectives are consistently incorporated into programming and exhibits the museum hosts.
“The stories of the FIRST people of this place, told in their own words in the Anishinabek exhibit, has been central to the visitor experience at the GRPM’s Van Andel Museum Center since its opening in the early 1990s,” said Dale Robertson, President/CEO. “It is critical that the Museum incorporate indigenous perspectives into all aspects of the GRPM’s work, including through the exhibits and programs the GRPM hosts now and in the future.”
Cotto has worked in indigenous education for 15 years. She told WGVU she’s excited to bring more opportunity for education into the West Michigan community.
“I see that there’s a huge need for and importance of bringing awareness of tribes - our history, our culture and our contemporary communities to the greater community,” Cotto said. “There seems to be a general lack of awareness. There’s not a lot of support in k-12 curriculum or even in the higher education level for people to learn.”
Cotto’s initial work will focus on the Grand River Burial Mounds Interpretation Initiative. The initiative is a partnership between the Grand Rapids Public Museum (GRPM), the City of Grand Rapids and regional tribes, and it will allow for expanded public knowledge and appreciation of one of the few surviving indigenous burial mound groups in the region.
“Constructed during the Middle Woodland period, approximately 2,000 years ago, the burial mounds have endured multiple owners, vandalism, and attempts to transform the site into a tourist attraction,” Cotto said. “As the current steward of the mounds, the GRPM has been working with local tribes on developing consensus on how best to care for and interpret this sacred place. I look forward to using my experiences in culturally-responsive relationship building and facilitation of participatory program development to help enhance this and other Anishinaabe-focused initiatives at the Grand Rapids Public Museum.”
Funding for the full-time position was made possible through two grants, one from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the other from the Wege Foundation. The grants have also allowed GRPM to create a robust indigenous internship program for local Native American college students.