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Native American Heritage MonthIn honor of Native American Heritage Month, the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum is hosting a month-long exhibition that recognizes Jessica A. Rickert, DDS, (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation), who is the first Native American female to become a dentist. When became a dentist in 1975, she became the second Native American to become a dentist. This month's exhibition is called “Celebrate Native American Heritage Exhibit.”

Dr. Rickert graduated from the Dentistry at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry in 1975 and began a dentistry practice after she passed the State of Michigan licensure exam. 

The Grand Rapids Children’s Museum has collaborated with the Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry to bring the exhibition to Grand Rapids. 

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Dr. Rickert, who grew up in a Grand Rapids suburb, is happy her hometown is recognizing her long career in dentistry, says she wants the general public to know People of the Three Fires (Potawatomi, Odawa, and Ojibwe) still live in the area and respect that her ancestors used the Grand River runs through downtown Grand Rapids.

“Ten-thousand years ago little girls and boys played games in the Wasëtenak. It is called the Grand River now. Brothers, sisters, and friends ran around laughing and singing in the water. They belonged to the Anishinaabe families, the three Mzhigénak tribes. It is called Michigan now. The Grand River still flows, and the children still play.” Dr. Rickert, who is now the Anishinaabe dental outreach specialist with Michigan Delta Dental said.

The Grand Rapids Children’s Museum is excited about the exhibition that features a Native American who grew up in the Grand Rapids area.

“While it is critical for all children and families to celebrate and learn about Native American Heritage all year around, we are excited to welcome this exhibit into our museum during National Native American Heritage Month,” the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum said in a press release.

“It is so critically important to have representation of our community within our museum and we are honored to partner with Dr. Rickert and the Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry to welcome the"Celebrate Native American Heritage Exhibit’ to our museum,” Maggie Lancaster, CEO of the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum said.

The exhibit will feature art, music and history celebrating the Anishinaabe people’s culture, and traditions. Aspects of this exhibit were developed in collaboration with the Sindecuse Museum ofDentistry at the University of Michigan’s School of Dentistry.

The exhibit opened on November 1 and will be featured through December 3, 2023. The Grand Rapids Children's Museum is located at 11 Sheldon, NE, in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Dr. Rickert will be on hand to read children books on Saturday, November 4, 2023 from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm.

Note: Dr. Jessica A. Rickert is a contributor to Native News Online. She write about oral health. 

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