Marshall Fredericks Museum celebrates Native American History Month

What’s happening:

The Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum on the campus of Saginaw Valley State University is celebrating Native American Heritage Month with educational program and exhibits through Dec. 17.

The Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum hosts several events to celebrate Native American Heritage Month in November.The celebration centers around two main exhibitions, one titled “Rethinking Monuments: American Sculpture in its Time 1850-2000,” which looks at American sculpture through the lends of contemporary debate, and another titled “Exposure: Native Art and Political Ecology,” which documents indigenous artists’ responses to the impact of nuclear testing and uranium mining on Native people and the environment.

Erik Trump (Photo courtesy of the Marshall M. Fredericks Museum.)Events during the exhibits include:
  • “Art & Politics” discussion from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sat., Nov. 5. The public is invited to join SVSU Political Science Professor Erik Trump in an interactive discussion at the museum.
  • Native American Art Activity: Clan Medallion Necklace from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sat., Nov. 5. During this event, people are invited to create medicine pouches. Medicine pouches teach us about healing herbs that protect and give spiritual powers to their owners. You do not need to have attended the discussion to participate in this free art activity for all ages. 
  • Black Elk Talk from 5 to 8 p.m. on Wed., Nov. 16. In celebration of Native American Heritage Month, the museum hosts a lecture and book-signing reception with the Rev. Michael F. Steltenkamp, author of two books on Black Elk; “Black Elk: Holy Man of the Oglala” (University of Oklahoma Press, 1993) and “Nicholas Black Elk: Medicine Man, Missionary, Mystic” (University of Oklahoma Press, 2009). Refreshments will be served, and the book will be available for sale. RSVP is requested but not required for this free event. To RSVP, call 989-964-7125 or email
Why the exhibits matter:

Black Elk (Photo courtesy of the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum)Both temporary exhibitions share different voices about a variety of contemporary topics that are often the center of debate including issues from equity and representation to historical memory and the environment are all voiced in these exhibitions.  

Who is involved in the exhibits?
  • Michael F. Steltenkamp has a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Michigan State University and is currently serving in the Saint John XXIII Parish in Hemlock. He was a tenured professor of social science at Wheeling Jesuit University until 2019. 
  • Black Elk was an Oglala Lakota medicine man who was born in 1863 and died in 1950.  He fought in the Battle of the Little Bighorn, was present at Wounded Knee, and later toured with “Wild West” shows in Europe, including that of Buffalo Bill.  He converted to Catholic Christianity, but in much of his later life reflected both Christian and traditional Lakota beliefs.  He became a figure of significant interest in both popular and academic realms with the publication of John Neihardt’s “Black Elk Speaks” in 1932.  The Roman Catholic diocese of Rapid City has begun a process through which Black Elk may one day be canonized. 
  • Michael F. Steltenkamp (Photo courtesy of the Marshall M. Fredericks Museum.)
  • There are significant connections between the Marshall Fredericks Sculpture Museum and Black Elk. Marshall Fredericks had a significant interest in traditional Lakota beliefs and created a small sculpture of “Black Elk” to assist in a fundraising campaign in 1978. In 1989, the small sculpture became the model for a thirteen-foot sculpture cast in bronze. The large-scale statue is currently located at SVSU in the Jo Anne and Donald Petersen Sculpture Garden adjacent to the museum. 
The exhibitions and programs are supported by the Michigan Arts and Culture Council. The “Exposure: Native Art and Political Ecology” exhibition is supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and The Ford Foundation. The “Rethinking Monuments: American Sculpture in its Time 1850-2000” exhibition is supported by Art Bridges and The Detroit Institute of Arts. 

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Read more articles by Kathy Roberts.

Kathy Roberts, a graduate of Central Michigan University, moved to Bay City in 1987 to start a career in the newspaper industry. She was a reporter and editor at the Bay City Times for 15 years before leaving to work at the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, Covenant HealthCare, and Ohno Design. In 2019, she returned to her storytelling roots as the Managing Editor of Route Bay City. When she’s not editing or writing stories, you can find her reading books, knitting, or visiting the bars of Bay County. You can reach Kathy at