Native American Heritage Month

Inaugural Native American Heritage Month Features Filmmakers, Art, Mythology and History in November

The inaugural Native American Heritage Month celebration hosted by Muskegon Community College will feature celebrated filmmakers, informative lectures, and an art exhibit during the month of November.

“This celebration is important not only for Native Americans, but all Americans, because we all need to learn more about indigenous peoples’ contributions – both past and present – that continue to shape our society,” said Hollie Benson, an MCC faculty member and coordinator of the inaugural Native American Heritage Month celebration.

An MCC organizing committee is partnering with The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians to plan the events.  All the events are free and the public is encouraged to attend.

Film and Art Exhibit in Fremont

Photo by Larry Gouine

Photo by Larry Gouine

On Saturday, Nov. 5, “Smoke Signals” will be shown at 2 p.m. in the Dogwood Center for Performing Arts Black Box in Fremont. The screenplay was written by Sherman Alexie and the film won a coveted Sundance Audience Award and the Sundance Filmmakers Trophy.  In conjunction with the Native American Heritage Month activities, local artist Larry Gouine will have a photo exhibit, “Native Visions,” on display at the Dogwood Center Lobby Gallery in Fremont, MI.

His exhibit includes a collection of dramatic photographs that provide a view of the daily life and cultural traditions of Native American community members. From the milestones of life, to the elaborate preparations and celebration of traditional dance and music, Gouine provides vivid colorful images and powerful monochromatic portraits to share his culture with visitors to the exhibit.

Film Producer Audrey Geyer

Our Files Still Burn Documentary PosterAudrey Geyer, who produced the one-hour documentary on Midwest Native American role models entitled, “Our Fires Still Burn: The Native American Experience,” will host the film and speak in Stevenson Center Room 1100 on Thursday, Nov. 10, at 7 p.m.

She is the founder and executive director of Visions, a non-profit independent video production company. Located in Metro Detroit, Visions focuses on the production of public affairs documentaries which tell the stories of communities underrepresented in the mainstream media.  Geyer graduated with a B.A. in Film/Video Studies from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and has a Master’s in Social Work from New York University.

Award-Winning Movie Director Chris Eyre

Chris Eyre, an award-winning film and television director and producer, will be in Muskegon Nov. 11-12 to screen and discuss his work.

Eyre, who has received both a Peabody and an Emmy Award, directed the highly praised film “Smoke Signals.” The screenplay was written by Sherman Alexie and the film won a coveted Sundance Audience A

Chris Eyre

Chris Eyre

ward and the Sundance Filmmakers Trophy. Eyre’s work for television includes three episodes of the PBS miniseries “We Shall Remain” (2009) – “After the Mayflower,” “Tecumseh’s Vision” and “Trail of Tears.” He also directed episodes of the critically acclaimed NBC show “Friday Night Lights.”

On Friday, Nov. 11, Eyre will screen and introduce his film “The Seventh Fire” followed by a question-and-answer period. He will also discuss his work and Native Americans in film and television today. The event takes place at the Orchard View High School Auditorium at 7 p.m.

The following day, Saturday, Nov. 12, Eyre will be in Stevenson Center Room 1100 on the MCC campus to show and discuss his film, “Smoke Signals” at 11:30 a.m.

After graduating from New York University’s film school, Eyre worked as a fellow in the Sundance Institute’s Directors Lab under the mentorship of Robert Redford. His 2004 film “Edge of America” was selected to show on Opening Night at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. The movie garnered Eyre the highly prestigious award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement from the Directors Guild of America. His latest film, “Hide Away,” starring Josh Lucas and James Cromwell, was released in the summer of 2012 after gaining award recognition at South by Southwest.

Native American Mythology and Folklore

Michael Johnson

Michael Johnson

MCC English Instructor Michael Johnson will discuss “Native American Mythology and Folklore” on Monday, Nov. 14, from 8:30-9:30 a.m. in Stevenson Center Room 1100.

A native of Bloomfield Hills, MI, Johnson’s literature courses include World Mythology. He earned a B.A. in English from Michigan State University and a M.A. in Medieval Studies from Western Michigan University.

Dispelling Myths and Stereotypes 

Kareen Lewis, a poet, author and artist, will discuss “Dispelling Myths and Stereotypes” on Tuesday, Nov. 15, in Stevenson Center Room 1100 as part of Muskegon Community Colleges Native American Heritage Month celebration.

The lecture, which is free and open to the public, runs from 12:30-1:30 p.m.

A native of Grand Rapids, MI, Lewis attended Migizi Indian School and Red School House, both Native survival schools.

Coalition Against Native American Mascots

Michigan Coalition Against Racism in Sports & Media logoLinda L. Cypret Kilbourne from the Michigan Coalition Against Racism in Sports and Media will present about Native American mascots on Wednesday, Nov. 16, from 10:30-11:30 a.m. in Stevenson Center Room 1100.

The organization is a grassroots project founded by Native Americans that is working to end discriminatory Native American references in the use of mascots and logos.

Indian Children in American History

Matthew Fletcher

Matthew Fletcher

As part of the MCC Lecture Series, Matthew L.M. Fletcher, professor of law at the Michigan State University College of Law and director of the Indigenous Law and Policy Center, will discuss “Indian Children in American History” on Thursday, Nov. 17, at 7 p.m. in Stevenson Center Room 1100.

Fletcher is a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians located in Peshawbestown, Michigan. He is the reporter for the American Law Institute’s Restatement, Third, The Law of American Indians. He sits as the Chief Justice of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians Supreme Court and also sits as an appellate judge for the Grand Traverse Band, the Hoopa Valley Tribe, the Lower Elwha Tribe, the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi Indians, the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, and the Santee Sioux Tribe of Nebraska.

“Indian children have been a focus of federal Indian affairs at least since the Framing of the Constitution,” explained Fletcher. “The Founding Generation initially used Indian children as military and diplomatic pawns, but eventually undertook a duty of protection to Indian children. Sadly, the United States then catastrophically distorted that duty of protection by deviating from its obligations through imposing abusive boarding schools upon Indian children, and then by breaking up Indian families.”

“The Indian Child Welfare Act embodies the modern duty of protection, now characterized as a federal trust relationship. The federal trust obligation to Indian children is now as closely realized as it ever has been throughout American history.”

Fletcher co-authored the sixth edition of Cases and Materials on Federal Indian Law (Thomson West 2011). He also authored American Indian Tribal Law (Aspen 2011), the first casebook for law students on tribal law; The Return of the Eagle: The Legal History of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians (Michigan State University Press 2012); and American Indian Education: Counternarratives in Racism, Struggle, and the Law (Routledge 2008).

He co-edited The Indian Civil Rights Act at Forty (UCLA American Indian Studies Press 2012), and Facing the Future: The Indian Child Welfare Act at 30 (Michigan State University Press 2009).

Professor Fletcher has published articles with American Indian Law Review, Arizona Law Review, California Law Review Circuit, University of Colorado Law Review, Harvard Journal on Legislation, Michigan Law Review First Impressions, Yale Law Journal Online, and many others. He is the primary editor and author of the leading law blog on American Indian law and policy, “Turtle Talk.”

Professor Fletcher graduated from the University of Michigan and the University of Michigan Law School.


Supaman Tour PosterChristian Takes Gun Parrish, a.k.a. “Supaman,” is a Native American dancer and innovative hip-hop artist who will perform on Friday, Nov. 18, at 7 p.m. in Bartels-Rode Gymnasium on the MCC campus. The event is free and open to the public.

A member of the Apsaalooke Nation from Montana, he has dedicated his life to empowering and spreading a message of hope through culture and music. He founded the Native American hip-hop group Rezawrecktion, whose first album, “It’s Time,” won a Native American Music Award in 2005. Since then, he has released four solo albums, and received acclaim, including the MTV Artist of the Week, for his ability to simultaneously fuse singing, rapping, DJ-ing and fancy dance.

He was awarded the Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Award in Canada for best video. His videos “Prayer Loop Song” and “Why” both went viral and received more than 2 million views on YouTube and Facebook. He has performed for Google at the Google headquarters in San Francisco and danced in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.


Native American Heritage Month is made possible in part by a grant from the Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or Michigan Humanities Council.

For more information on MCC’s Native American Heritage Month, contact Hollie Benson at or call (231) 777-0331.

Michigan Humanities Council Grant

The FoundatMichigan Humanities Councilion for Muskegon Community College has received a $22,100 grant from the Michigan Humanities Council (MHC) to support the inaugural Native American Heritage Month celebration on campus in November 2016.

The award was one of nearly $650,000 in grants to 28 cultural organizations in Michigan under the MCH’s Heritage Grants Program.

The grants support a variety of projects that use history and humanities approaches to shed light on present-day social issues as they relate to the intersection of ethnic identity, racial equity, and cultural heritage, according to the MHC. The Heritage Grant Program is made possible by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

“The Heritage Grant awards will fund a variety of excellent projects that bring authentic voices to critical racial, ethnic and cultural issues throughout Michigan,” said Shelly Kasprzycki, the MHC Executive Director. “We are honored to partner with the W. K. Kellogg Foundation to engage in this work.”

“Muskegon’s rich history includes Native American influences,” said Benson. “This is a great opportunity to learn about Native American culture while, at the same time, expanding our discussion about how we come from different cultures but share a commonality.”

Alexie’s participation meshes with the intent of the MHC grants “to fund projects that bring forward the voices of groups that are often marginalized to share their stories and record their history in ways that are meaningful and impactful in their communities.”

This year’s MHC’s grant award recipients include oral histories, exhibits, digital archives, documentaries, performances, school programs, and community conversations that share and preserve the experiences of Michigan’s diverse people.

For details on individual Michigan Humanities Council grant awards, please contact Joseph Cialdella, Program Manager, at  or (517) 372-7770.

Native American Heritage Month is made possible in part by a grant from the Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or Michigan Humanities Council.


Community Foundation for Muskegon County Grant

CFFMC logoThe Community Foundation for Muskegon Country (CFFMC) has awarded $5,000 to Muskegon Community College to help support its first-ever Native American Heritage Month cultural and educational events in November.

The CFFMC was created in 1961 to improve the quality of life for Muskegon County residents. As a publicly supported community endowment, the Foundation receives and manages contributions from thousands of community citizens and organizations committed to the future of Muskegon County.

“Sherman Alexie’s ability to speak – in an accessible and humorous way – about his experiences as a Native American attending a primarily white school can engage us all in thoughts regarding our own assumptions and actions around connecting with people from different backgrounds,” said Janelle Mair, the CCFMC Director of Grantmaking.  “The Foundation is excited to support this project – one that will move us towards a more inclusive community.”

“The Tribal Historic Preservation Department of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians would like to thank the Community Foundation for Muskegon County in awarding $5000 towards the Native American Heritage Month at Muskegon Community College,” said Kareen Lewis, from the Historic Preservation Office of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians. “We are excited to co-sponsor these events with the College and look forward to promoting diversity, enhancing relationships amongst Muskegon students and residents and educating about the regions first residents, the Anishinaabek.”