Saginaw Chippewa Officials Refuse to Participate in Isabella County Celebration Due to Dispute over Treaty Rights

From the Mt. Pleasant Morning Sun:

The official flag of Isabella County acknowledges the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe as a significant part of the community.

Yet, the lack of recognition of Isabella Reservation boundaries by the county are “at the heart of the issue” for the Tribal government’s lack of official sponsorship or representation at the upcoming sesquicentennial celebrations.

“It is the heart of the whole issue,” Tribal Chief Fred Cantu Jr. said. “We really are standing to those treaties.

“Those treaties still exist. We’ve never said that they don’t,” he said.

On Jan. 28, Tribal Council decided against having official representation at the county’s 150th celebration due to pending lawsuit between the Tribe and the U.S. government, as the plaintiffs, and the state of Michigan, the city of Mt. Pleasant, and Isabella County, as the defendants, over the lack of recognition of reservation boundaries in six county townships designated by the federal government.

“We’ve had two (Tribal) personnel who sit on different committees, Frank Cloutier and Judy Pamp,” Cantu said. “That is the only involvement that we’ve had, but we still support them.

“We are maintaining our cultural connection through representatives from our Ziibiwing Center. We would encourage them to get a better understanding of the issues,” he said.

The Treaties of 1855 and 1864 between the United States and the people of the Saginaw Chippewa, Swan Creek, and Black River bands, recognize the reservation boundaries of the Tribe which are supported by the U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Michigan Department of Transportation, Cantu said.

“The recognition is clear on the flag of Isabella County of how strong the Tribe is to the community,” Joe Sowmick, spokesman for the Tribe said. “The citizens should look at the commitment by the county to this idea.

“This is an opportunity to educate and show the historical perspective. And an opportunity to be responsible to that flag,” he said.

Sowmick said that they are asking Isabella County to look at what was intended by the creation of the official flag.

“Maps that are given out to their constituents that show Tribal boundaries within the six townships, and it would be disingenuous that they would (not recognize them),” Sowmick said.

Sowmick said that the Ziibiwing Center representative will be the connection to educate the community of the cultural, traditional, and historical aspects of the Tribal community both past and present.

“We encourage them to get a better understanding on issues such as sovereignty, treaty rights, and the historical presence of the Tribe,” Sowmick said.

The Anishinabe Ogitchedaw Veteran and Warrior Society “respectfully declined” an invitation to participate in the Wednesday Founder’s Day ceremonies due to the lack of honor of the Treaty agreements, Sowmick said.