Indigenous | Michigan Radio
WUOMFM

Indigenous

a map shows the straits of mackinac with some satellite imagery
screenshot from Enbridge report to the state

Indigenous governments and activists in the Great Lakes have been leaders in the movement to shut down the twin oil pipelines that run under the Mackinac Straits.

Now, one of the most visible people in that movement has left his tribal government job and set up his own consulting firm. One of his clients? The pipelines’ owner, Enbridge Energy.

This sudden change has upset indigenous communities in the region, and some worry it’s a “divide-and-conquer” tactic.

Two men in conservation officer uniforms smile and eat pancakes in a steamy barn
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

 

Maple sugaring season is just wrapping up in northern Michigan. This delicious tradition of boiling maple sap to make syrup is practiced in the state on many scales.

But indigenous communities in the area were tapping trees long before settlers arrived.

A satellite photo of the Great Lakes
NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory/Flickr

Mayors from Great Lakes cities have united with leaders from First Nations communities to criticize proposed new rules for approving Great Lakes water withdrawals.

The Anishinabek Nation, a political advocacy group representing 40 First Nations communities in Ontario, has joined forces with the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, made up of mayors from the Great Lakes region. The groups are concerned about proposed new procedures for approving water withdrawal requests under the Great Lakes Compact, the agreement governing the removal of water from the Great Lakes basin.

A photo of the Cheboiganing Band village before it was burned in 1900.
Courtesy of the Burt Lake Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians

This is the final part of our series An Idea on the Land. Here's where you can find Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. 

On a chilly morning, 118 autumns ago, the residents of a tiny village along a lake in Northern Michigan were forced out of their homes and kicked off the land they had legally purchased.

The residents were native people, members of what was then called the Cheboiganing Band of Indians. There’s some evidence native people had been living at that site for thousands of years.

But since that morning, on Oct. 15, 1900, their land has been in the hands of others. And the descendants of those who were there that morning are still fighting for justice and recognition in the courts today.

[Support great journalism like this by making a contribution to Michigan Radio]

It was 1823. The land of Michigan wasn’t yet a state. The indigenous people far outnumbered the white settlers. The Erie Canal hadn’t opened. The flood of European immigrants was yet to arrive.

New York Public Library Digital Collections

We are of the dirt.

That’s what Willie Jennings believes.

“My mother was a gardener,” he says. Each spring, as she got her garden ready, she would spray water on the dirt, and tell him to plunge his hands deep into the wet soil.

“And she would turn to me and say, ‘You feel that? You feel that son? That’s life.'”