Day 12: Honoring Michigan’s First People

Every day is the right time to honor Native culture, strength and fortitude. Every day is an opportunity to tell the world: We are here. We are still here. And there is much cause for celebration.

First Nations Development Institute

There are many terms used to describe the Indigenous People of America. For example, “American Indian” is used in the legal context by the branch of law, Federal Indian Law, as well as through the U.S. Census Bureau. “Native American” was a term that grew out of political movements in the 1960s and ‘70s. While these, and many other terms, are often used interchangeably in the United States, there is no universally agreed upon preferred language, and the best practice is to ask an individual how they prefer to be identified.

Like much of the United States, indigenous populations have a rich history within Michigan. Michigan was historically inhabited by three Anishinaabe (ah-nish-ih-nah-bey) nations of the Council of Three Fires: the Ojibwe (also known as the Chippewa), the Odawa (also known as the Ottawa), and the Potawatomi. In the late 18th and 19th centuries, the Council of Three Fires negotiated a series of treaties with representatives of the United States government. These treaties, however, were generally not conducted fairly and frequently followed a military defeat of Native Americans or took place within a framework that threatened a resort to military force.

The first of two Michigan treaties affecting the Anishinaabeg were the 1795 Treaty of Greenville, in which Detroit was ceded, and the 1807 Treaty of Detroit, in which much of Southeastern Michigan was ceded. These treaties forced the Anishinaabeg to give up large swathes of their land to the United States government and set up reservations where the Anishinaabeg were made to live. Michigan-related treaties continued, and by 1842 the Anishinaabeg only held 32 square miles of reserved land, with the remaining 58,216 square miles having been ceded to the United States. It is important to know that while the government forced many Anishinaabeg off their land, the former indigenous groups of Michigan were not lost in the shadows. Some were relocated out west, some fled to Canada, and others eventually returned to their homeland where they still live today. Currently, Michigan is home to 12 federally recognized tribes.

Today’s resources will help you to dig deeper into the history of Michigan’s first people. You will learn about the land cessions in Michigan, the language and foods of the Anishinaabeg, the federally recognized tribes of Michigan, how to bring awareness to Indigenous presence and land rights in everyday life, and more.

Before you dig into today’s resources, watch this short video on dispelling myths and misconceptions regarding Native Americans. (Content warning: The beginning of the video contains images from past and recent pop culture that are considered offensive to indigenous populations.)




  • View this resource to find what historically indigenous land you live on and work on (5 minutes).

Reflect And Share

  1. How did today’s challenge make you feel? What is something you learned today?
  2. What does it mean to honor and celebrate culture and tradition?
  3. Why is it important to represent diverse and contemporary Native American voices, experiences and perspectives?
  4. What is the danger in telling just one version or just one perspective of a story? What actions can we take to make sure we center history and stories on many perspectives?


Start the conversation. Send the tweet. Share your story. Make the Facebook post. Sharing what you learn and experience with your family, friends, and co-workers is the first step toward allyship.

Join thousands in conversation by using hastag #EquityChallenge or #TakeTheEC22