The Paradox of an Anishinabe Anthropologist
explores personal experiences and cultural conundrums of indigenous anthropologist Katrina Furman. Deep-rooted cultural beliefs regarding death, as well as the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, often conflict with university anthropology courses. Katrina’s convictions were tested as studies found her frequently engaged with bones from nameless donors in the Bio Lab. A semester in London, England, also revealed that British attitudes toward human remains differed from the Anishinabe, a moral struggle Katrina faced while assisting with osteoarchaeological research at the British Museum. This program also explores the frustrating reality of citing one’s own culture in research papers, indigenous criticism of anthropology, and why Katrina calls the GRPM’s First Peoples of This Place
exhibit the “Cousin Room.”
Despite the challenges, Furman will share some of the highlights of her chosen field. Ethnographic research with the ASD community and linguistic evaluation of a refugee education program are two examples of the rewarding work done. She will also share stories about her archaeology experience, including the day the museum excavated a mastodon!
“I’ve always been an anthropologist,” says Furman. “Documentaries, museums, and Mackinaw defined my childhood when other kids were in the arcade or hanging out at the Beulah beach. Growing up in Benzie County, I relished tales of the bygone lumbering communities, forgotten railroad stops, and ancient Indian trails. Spring meant access to the back roads that revealed hidden foundations and remnants of long-lost encampments. My parents enjoyed taking car rides off the beaten path and sharing the stories told by my great grandfather, himself a lumberjack and Anishinabe. Occasionally, we would pull over for mushrooms or berry picking, stoking the fires of my imagination in places like Aral, Oviatt, and White City.”
Katrina Furman, MPA, is a cultural anthropologist born and raised in Benzie County. She is a proud member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians and worked in the tribal government for nearly two decades. Katrina attended Grand Valley State University, earning her Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology in 2018 and her Master of Public Administration in 2021. She is currently employed in the education department at the Grand Rapids Public Museum. In her free time, Katrina and her husband, Dan, enjoy traveling and visiting family in Benzie County.