We acknowledge that Michigan State University occupies the ancestral, traditional, and contemporary Lands of the Anishinaabeg – the Three Fires Confederacy of Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi peoples. The University resides on Land ceded in the 1819 Treaty of Saginaw. We recognize that settler and Indigenous signatories understood the terms of the treaties in starkly different terms. According to a map within the University archive, Anishinaabeg maintained an ‘Indian Encampment’ south of the Red Cedar River when classes were first held at the University (then known as Michigan Agricultural College) on May 13, 1857.
As one of the first Land Grant colleges, Michigan State University is a beneficiary of Land allotted through the passing of the Morrill Act in 1862. The University finds pride in calling itself ‘The Nation’s Pioneer Land Grant College,’ a term we find highly problematic and recommend that it no longer be used. The Morrill Act, which enabled the Land Grant system, was passed in the same year as both the Homestead Act–granting 160 acres to individual settlers who ‘improved’ and farmed land in the West–and the largest mass hanging in the history of the United States, the state-sanctioned murder of thirty-eight Dakota. We understand that there is an indelible relationship between the creation of Land Grant institutions, the simultaneous and ongoing expropriation of Indigenous Lands, and the governmentally-coordinated genocide against Indigenous peoples. By recognizing the ways that settler-colonial institutions benefit from these interconnected histories, we work to hold the University accountable.
In American Indian and Indigenous Studies, we recognize, support, and advocate for the sovereignty of Michigan’s twelve federally-recognized Indian nations (Bay Mills Indian Community, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Hannahville Indian Community, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Match-e-be-nash-she-wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, and Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians), as well as other Indigenous people and historic tribes in Michigan (Burt Lake Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians, Mackinac Band of Chippewa and Ottawa Indians, and Swan Creek Black River Confederated Ojibwa Tribes), across Turtle Island, and throughout the Fourth World.
We acknowledge the real ways that the State of Michigan, Michigan State University, and residents of this Land have benefitted from the forced and systematic removal of Anishinaabeg and other Indigenous peoples from Michigan, particularly during the Indian Removal period of the nineteenth century. We affirm and acknowledge the Burt Lake Band, who were literally burned from their houses in 1900. We also acknowledge the Métis community who were forced from their community on Bootaaganini-minis (Drummond Island), when the border was drawn between the US and Canada. Likewise, we recognize that parts of what is now Michigan includes Land within the traditional Homelands of the Miami, Meskwaki, Sauk, Kickapoo, Menominee, and other Indigenous nations.
We collectively understand that offering Land Acknowledgements or Land Recognitions do not absolve settler-colonial privilege or diminish colonial structures of violence, at either the individual or institutional level. We recognize that Land Acknowledgements must be preceded and followed with ongoing and unwavering commitments to American Indian and Indigenous communities. In AIIS, we push Michigan State University to recruit, retain, and support American Indian and Indigenous students, faculty, and staff. Moreover, we affirm that Michigan State University must support Indigenous communities and nations in Michigan, as well as throughout Turtle Island, and across the Fourth World. We recognize, support, and advocate for the sovereignty of Michigan’s twelve federally-recognized Indian nations, for historic Indigenous communities in Michigan, for Indigenous individuals and communities who live here now, and for those who were forcibly removed from their Homelands. We affirm Indigenous sovereignty and hold Michigan State University accountable to the needs of American Indian and Indigenous peoples.