Home Featured News The Indigenous People of Michigan need more recognition

The Indigenous People of Michigan need more recognition

(Courtesy Photo)

By Mia Kerner

The native tribes that hold strong to their familial land are keeping their culture alive daily deserve more respect and recognition. 

Native tribes face many challenges as they fight to defend their ancestral practices, many of which are rooted from public misinformation, mistreatment, and a general lack of representation. 

Michigan is home to 12 government-acknowledged tribes, which are “sovereign governments that exercise direct jurisdiction over their members and territory and, under some circumstances, over other citizens as well,” as defined by Michigan’s Tribal Governments.

It is also worth noting that these tribal governments provide many services to their members, including lawmaking, police and court systems, and health and education services.

Many indigenous peoples are working to gradually decolonize and raise their youth on the values and customs of their ancestors, reverting back to their cultural way of life despite the constant pressure of urbanization and modern American society.

After continuing to misrepresent and fetishize native people, the very least that we as an American people can do is respect their wishes. It is not our place to judge the choices that they make or decide what should or should not offend them.

Established systems such as Blood Quantum Laws have set indigenous people up for failure and continue to do so. Requiring a specific amount of “Indian blood” for one to be considered indigenous is altogether insulting, not to mention the “one drop” rule, which states that one with ⅛ of Black heritage (or less in some scenarios) rules an individual out as a native person. This rule stems from the rule of hypodescent, which is when a mixed-race person is classified as the less dominant race of their parents.

These incredibly outdated systems further fuel the flame of identity crisis’ in young natives. Struggling to find where they fit in among their community and modern American society is already hard enough, incorporating a test that determines what and who you can identify as is completely inappropriate. 

Though Blood Quantum testing is not required by law, many government aids that help indigenous people will not proceed without proof that one is “Indian enough”.

The stereotyping, discrimination and general mistreatment that natives face is altogether unacceptable. Allowing indigenous people to speak for themselves, supporting their endeavors and granting them the respect that they deserve will bring America one step further from repeating its past mistakes. 

From appreciating the painfully enlightened art of Gregg Deal to following the business and political endeavors of Winona LaDuke, Native culture can and should be appreciated by the non-indigenous.

Events such as Michigan’s first indigenous musical festival, Vibes with the Tribes, can be supported and/or attended by any and all who wish to support the re-ignition of the culture. The festival takes place in Southwest Detroit, on Anishinaabe ancestral lands, and celebrates both past and present traditions of natives. Beginning on Aug. 6, 2022, this trailblazing festival epitomizes the movement of acceptance and cultural respect that needs to occur in this country.

Respecting and supporting natives, taking the initiative to self-educate, admitting previous insensitivity and displaying general empathy are our nation’s only hope to give back to the culture from which we have already taken so much.


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