2012 Baxter Award Recipient
Kevin Finney, local cultural historian, outdoorsman and scholar, is widely known for his expertise in the life and history of Native Americans from the Great Lakes region. Our community's awareness of Native American history has been greatly enriched with the work of Finney. He teaches and writes books in the Pottawatomi language, helps kids build authentic birch-bark canoes and bark houses, and develops educational resources focused on Native American culture.
Finney, who lives with his family just north of Hopkins, is hired by schools, museums and historical sites from across the country for his expertise. Since 1998 he has reconstructed dozens of detailed, historically accurate Native American structures at interpretive sites and schools across the Great Lakes region. Many were built with students and the Native American community. He's also supplied film and television production crews with authentic Native American canoes, bark-covered wigwams, hides, pottery, stone tools and clothing.
Two months of the year, the educator serves as an artist-in-residence at the Goodwillie Environmental School in Forest Hills Public School District, teaching fifth graders local history through hands-on activities and historical research with students. The projects focus on historical mapping, fur trade history, snowshoe making and building a birch-bark canoe similar to those constructed by Native Americans years ago.
In 2009, Finney founded the Great Lakes Lifeways Institute, a non-profit educational organization dedicated to preserving and sharing the heritage of the Great Lakes region's land, traditions, arts and culture.
In addition to this, Finney conducts numerous community workshops and classes, including Potawatomi language courses for the Gun Lake Band of Pottawatomi Indians, programs at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Aquinas College, and the Great Lakes Traditional Arts Gathering.