Staff member helps preserve Native American burial grounds

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Dave Edwards, a custodial staff member at Grand Valley, doesn’t descend from Native Americans, but has always had an interest in Native American culture and heritage. His admiration led him to join the West Michigan American Indian Movement (AIM), an organization dedicated to protecting the rights of Native Americans through community service and awareness. 

Along with eight members of AIM, Edwards helped clean the Norton Burial Grounds in Grand Rapids in mid-May. He explained that Grand Valley loaned recycling equipment to help gather, organize and transport recyclable items found at the burial grounds. “We weren’t able to finish the clean-up; it’ll be an ongoing process,” he said. “But with Grand Valley’s help, we collected bags of recyclable materials and more than 50 tires.”

Edwards said the clean-up was done in a ceremonial manner. “It’s tradition,” explained Edwards. “Before entering the mounds we each held tobacco in our left hand and strawberries in our right, signifying an offering. It was a neat experience.”

The Grand Rapids Public Museum oversees the preservation of the grounds, which are 13 Hopewell burial mounds near the Grand River, a few miles southwest of downtown Grand Rapids. Hopewell is a scientific name given to an ancient civilization that flourished 2,000 years ago and the Norton Burial Grounds site is one of the best preserved Hopewellian cemeteries in the country.

Edwards said AIM hopes to work with the Native American Student Association at Grand Valley in the future.