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Effort to center Native American history, experience at Northern MI memorial gets new grant

A $3.6 million grant from the Mellon Foundation will help create new educational experiences and facilities at the Father Marquette National Memorial.

Father Marquette was a Jesuit priest who came to North America in 1670. He is probably best known for being the first European to go down the Mississippi River with Louis Joliet and mapping out the river, making it accessible for explorers, said Sandra Clark, the director of the state Department of Natural Resources' Michigan History Center.

The DNR is leading the effort to contextualize Marquette's life. Its elements are also being developed by a cooperative of local, state and tribal partners.

Clark says they're intending to have a new community and tourism attraction. “The Father Marquette National Memorial has been there for a long time. There are some trails that we're really going to be able to develop,” she said. “Both for residents to use … and also for the many tourists that visit the Straits of Mackinac every year.”

She emphasized the importance of a learning space for special programs.

"The park has, what I believe, is the best view of the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan. So it's a beautiful place to visit,” she said. “We are really excited to be working with our Anishinaabe colleagues to add to the interpretation of Father Marquette, the story of the people who were there when he arrived and remained there till to this day."

Construction is expected to begin in summer 2024 with a projected completion in 2025.

Father Marquette National Memorial is located in St. Ignace. The memorial is within Straits State Park operated by the State of Michigan.

Christopher Johnson is married with two daughters. Born and raised in Detroit, he is a floating fill-in host at Michigan Public.
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