The First People
The Grand River, which the Chippewa Indians called Owashtanongzibi (“further country”), has been and remains home to many Native American tribal communities across the region since the end of the Ice Age, including the People of the Three Fires, an alliance of the Ottawa (Odawa), Chippewa (Ojibwa), and Potawatomi (Bodewadi) tribes. During this time the Grand River provided a primary travel and trade route, and the valley was used extensively for hunting and growing food. The native communities that have lived here have a deep relationship with the river and land around it.
Around 1700, the People of the Three Fires established villages in what is now Grand Rapids, with their main gathering place in present-day downtown. The People of the Three Fires called themselves the Anishinabek or The Original People.
The lives of these indigenous people changed in 1821 when the Treaty of Chicago gave the United States control of the land south of the Grand River.
The area was opened up to settlement, and Native Americans were increasingly displaced, and often forcibly relocated to make room for new arrivals. The new European fur traders established trading posts with the Ottawa tribes and primarily traded European metals for textiles and fur pelts.
The Anishinabek people continue to live in this region of their ancestors and the river continues to hold cultural and historical significance to them. At Ah-Nab-Awen Park, there are three large hills which were designed to symbolize the mounds used in Hopewell Indian culture.