Laine Girard/Grand Valley Lanthorn
Eugene Strong educated students on tribal traditions and rituals before the students entered into the mounds.

Students and Community Clean Up Native Burial Mound for Heritage Month


On November 2, students from Grand Valley State University and members of the West Michigan community teamed up to clean up a Native American burial ground. The day of service was one of their nods to Native American Heritage Month, reports the Grand Valley Lanthorn, a student-run publication.

The clean up focused on the Norton Mounds, located just a few miles south of Grand Rapids, Michigan, one of the remaining Hopewell Mounds, which the Grand Rapids Public Museum is working to preserve.

The day of service was run by the university’s Office of Multicultural Affairs and it began with an introduction by Eugene Strong, who works to preserve similar burial mounds in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

“They want to remove the mounds because that is the final act of genocide,” Strong said. “You’re helping the ancestors; you’re helping the culture and preventing the final act of genocide.”

The Grand Valley Lanthorn reported that Strong told the students that many have a hard time naming Native Americans in history, and that there is a need to raise awareness about Native history and culture. Showing respect by cleaning up the mounds is one way of doing this.

Terry Frechette, chairman of the West Michigan American Indian Movement, agreed with Strong, adding that many people don’t realize what the mounds are and will throw trash on them, which is why a clean up day is needed at least once a year.