A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Monday for new artwork installed in the Clinch Park tunnel in downtown Traverse City. The art honors the Anishinaabek, people indigenous to the region — specifically, the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.
“Mazinaadin,” the name of the new exhibition, translates to “make an image” in Anishinaabemowin. The project is a collaboration between the Traverse City Arts Council and the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.
Tribal chairman Sam McClellan said walking through Clinch Park tunnel was “awesome.”
“We’re very proud of our nation, very proud of our people and we’re very proud to be here," he said. "Actually, we’re proud that you’re here in our land."
It would take hours in the tunnel to truly appreciate every detail of the murals. Painted by artist Bobby Magee Lopez in close collaboration with the Grand Traverse Band, they depict the tribe’s history and culture with people, plants, animals and symbols.
Traverse City mayor Jim Carruthers also spoke at the event, recognizing the tribe's history and contributions to the city.
“They’re an important part of our community, and sometimes part of our community that we don’t pay much attention to, except when it comes time to write a check," said Carruthers.
The tribe helped finance the murals, just like they’ve helped finance numerous community projects over the years — they set aside 2 percent of their gaming revenue for that purpose.
Carruthers, the city manager, and commissioners spent the morning before the ceremony with the tribal council at Eyaawing museum in Peshawbestown, where Carruthers presented the tribe with a key to the city.
The nearby mouth of the Ottaway (Boardman) River is culturally significant to the tribe. At one time, there was already Anishinaabe art at this location. It was painted over during a 2013 tunnel re-model.
Arlene Kashata, a Grand Traverse Band citizen, thinks the new murals are “really beautiful.”
“I’m grateful to be here today and see this grand opening that honors our people that have been here from the beginning, so miigwetch.”
Miigwetch means “thank you.”