Grand Valley State University’s First Anishinaabe Leadership Camp Deemed a Success

Participants in the Anishinaabe Leadership Camp on campus of Grand Valley State University
Photo Credit: Amanda Pitts, University Communications

Published July 2, 2017

ALLENDALE, MICHIGAN — Fifteen American Indian high schools from various parts of Michigan attended the Anishinaabe Leadership Camp on the campus of Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan last week.

The four-day camp was sponsored by Grand Valley State University’s Division of Inclusion and Equity on the recommendation of the university’s Native American Advisory Council.

The camp was tailored to expose the Native youth to their Native culture to develop leadership skills, while introducing them to campus life at Grand Valley State University.

Grand Valley State University is a public liberal arts university located in Allendale, Michigan, with campuses in downtown Grand Rapids and other locations in Michigan. The student enrollment is just over 25,000. One of the goals of the Native American Adivory Council is to see the university recruit more American Indian students that number less than 300.

“Our first annual Anishinaabe Leadership Camp was a success. Many of our participants shared how important it was to them to be around other Anishinaabe youth,” says Belinda Bardwell (Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians), who serves on the university’s Native American Advisory Board and was a consultant in the planning and implementation of the camp.

The participants stayed in a student dormitory and toured the sprawling Allendale campus.

“We had a very successful inaugural camp. We heard some powerful closing presentations from the campers around their interpretation of the sessions, their identity, and the camp in general, and what it meant to them to be at Grand Valley with the peers we assembled,” commented Kathleen VanderVeen, assistant vice president for equity, planning and compliance, Division of Inclusion and Equity at Grand Valley State University.

“I feel as though the camp was a success. Getting this launched and getting the commitment from the university was a great start. The Native American Advisory Board has been very proactive and we feel strongly that we have a responsibility to develop a pathway for our youth,” says Hunter Genia (Chippewa/Ottawa), a member of the GVSU Native American Advisory Board. “In essence the Michigan Native American youth population should be hearing from GVSU with our efforts.”

“The Native American Advisory Board looks forward to using camper feedback from this session to plan an even better and longer camp session for summer 2018,” Bardwell said.

Editor’s Note: Levi Rickert serves on Grand Valley State University’s Native American Advisory Board.




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