More on Where Margaret Wente

Margaret Wente’s 10-24-08 column in the Globe and Mail espouses that aboriginal American contributions to contemporary society are generally overstated and that there was a vast developmental chasm separating Indian and European cultures at the time of first contact.  She seems enamoured with Frances Widdowson and Albert Howard’s forthcoming text that apparently “knocks the stuffing out of the prevailing mythology that surrounds the history of first peoples.”

That line has stuck with me for the last several days. As an Ojibwe raised in the U.S., I’ve always felt that the Anishinaabek and other first peoples were ignored or at least de-emphasized by the vast majority of North American history texts, especially those most influential in K-12 education. I suppose, for me, the concept of a North American historical mythology congers up a totally different set of ideas that it does for Margaret. I do like the idea of knocking the stuffing out of an historical mythology. I think that is what William Cronon attempted to do with the publication of “Changes in the Land” and Ojibwe historian George Cornell has worked at throughout his career, as with his contribution to “People of the Three Fires”; like Lakota-Ojibwe scholar Patrick Labeau attempts with “Rethinking Michigan Indian History”; and Richard White with “The Middle Ground”.

I haven’t yet read Widdowson and Howard’s book that Wente is so impressed with, but I have a feeling my people are in their piñata. I hope when the piñata busts, there is an outpouring of Aboriginal and non-aboriginal response that sounds nothing like the prose of Margaret Wente. However, I am way ahead of myself; I’ll reserve judgement of the new book until it is published and I can give it a careful read.

I have read Hayden King’s response article to the Wente column. King provides an important counter to the misinformation strewn throughout the original column.

What Margaret Wente Wrote Was Really Dumb — and also not true

In a recent column in Canada’s Globe and Mail titled, “What Dick Pound said was really dumb – and also true”, Margaret Wente submits a high profile critisism of Aboriginal socio-cultural systems, first nations politics and aboriginal knowledge systems. With this article, Wente dives 1000 leagues below the “savage” comments made by Dick Pound. Her conclusions are poorly founded, contradictory, and backward-ic. Yet, if you read the online discussion at the Globe and Mail that has followed her column, you’ll see (not surprisingly) there are many people who agree with her views.  The column is an example of poorly researched provocateur journalism; yet, as has occurred with similar publications in the past, we can expect it to have a long shelf life and misinform scores of people.

See the full article and subsequent online discussion.

McCain and Palin are “Old School” When it Comes to American Indian Policy

I recently had two conversations with fellow Natives about the 2008 presidential election that I thought were noteworthy. First, while on a trip to Washington, D.C. I connected with Yup’ik and Haida friends and we discussed Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Their perspective was quite clear. They feel that 1) Palin has worked against the interests of Alaska Natives throughout her career and 2) her representation of the “First Dude” Todd Palin as an Alaska Native during the GOP National Convention was troubling. On this later point, they shared that Todd Palin’s connections to Native peoples is paper thin and that, tellingly, Governor Palin had never discussed her husband’s Native ancestry publicly prior to the GOP National Convention. Previously, she had merely referenced that her “children’s grandmother is part Yup’ik” which is quite different than saying “my children are Yup’ik” or “my husband is “Yup’ik”.

The second conversation was with a friend who shared that she has noticed a lot of members of the Indian Tribe on the reservation where she lives are supporting the McCain-Palin campaign because McCain is a veteran and Palin’s husband is “Native”. I find this rationale for American Indian voter support troubling. To be sure, Native people are extremely supportive of their veterans and veterans of all nations. However, to think that a politician is going to support tribes and Indian issues simply because they are a decorated veteran is naïve. Furthermore, because McCain is a long-time Arizona policy maker and AZ is a state with many tribal nations inside and straddling its borders, voters do not have to look hard to track down McCain’s record on American Indian policy. McCain and his chosen running mate both represent states heavily populated by Native people, yet neither has proven themselves supporters of Indian Country during their time in office.

I ask two things of anyone who may read this blog. First, please vote in the 2008 presidential election and encourage/help others to do the same. Second, before making your decisions about the upcoming election, look into the voting records and public comments of the candidates. There are plenty of places to find policy statements and voting records, including:


If you are Indian or supportive of Indian people, you can also look to see how various candidates are referencing and interacting with tribes during their campaigns to get a sense for how supportive they will be to Indians if elected. I’ve been tracking how McCain’s work impacts Indians since the mid 1990’s and in the last month have studied up on Palin’s record with Alaska Natives. I saw a bumper sticker recently that referred to the McCain-Palin ticket as a “bridge to nowhere”. One thing is for certain in my mind; McCain and Palin will not help to build a “bridge to sovereignty” or a “bridge to prosperity” in Indian Country. However, they could likely build a time portal that takes American Indian policy back to the 19th Century.

Spring Fishing Season Brings Consent Decree Attention

As folks start dusting off thier spring fishing gear, the 2007 Consent Decree is getting some press again. It is good to keep balanced information in front of Michigan citizens as we come upon walleye spawning and subsequent inland spearing. These activities will present a culture shock for some citizens, so some balanced coverage by local media outlets will be useful.

By the way, the Michigan DNR is hiring 2 fisheries biologists to work on their tribal coordination unit and whose duties will relate directly to implementing the 2007 Consent Decree. The postings close on 4/22/08.

Coaster Brook Trout and U.P. Sulfide Mining

The proposed sulfide mining operation named the “Eagle Project” by the Kennecott Mining Corporation is staunchly apposed by the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community as well as several U.P. community and conservation groups. Critics contend that the proposed project represents a significant threat to natural and cultural resources, stands to provide a meager amount of tax revenue to the state and a huge profit to Kennecott. It is now recognized that there may be significant deleterious effects on the Coaster Brook Trout. Coaster Brook Trout 90 Day Finding


Above link is an advance copy of the FWS positive 90 day finding relating to the coaster brook trout.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the petition as supplemented provided sufficient information to conclude that listing the US population as endangered may be warranted. FWS will now begin a status review, with a public comment period that runs through May 19: requests for public hearings must be received by May 5.

Cross-Deputization Concerns in Manistee

Glenn Zaring, Communications Director of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, recently wrote an article for the Ludington Daily News regarding the reluctance of Manistee County to cross-deputize and work cooperatively with LRB law enforcement. He poses some important questions in the article that highlight some of the divisive issues in the region


For years now, the controversy over cross-deputization of tribal police officers in Michigan has been swirling here in Manistee County. Not in other areas, just here! The 11 other tribes in Michigan have good relations with their local law enforcement authorities and are cross-deputized. They are also integral components of the law enforcement picture protecting and serving all of their counties’ residents. County prosecutors and sheriffs welcome the assistance of tribal law enforcement officers in maintaining law and order and defraying the costs that would otherwise be borne exclusively by county taxpayers.

Why is Manistee County so far out of the mainstream? Why has Manistee County ignored the wishes of the U.S. Attorney General’s office to cross-deputize the officers of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians? Why does the county believe the accepted and successful practice across the state of cross-deputizing tribal officers cannot work here? Why do the Manistee County Commissioners and sheriff want to ignore the opportunity to expand the abilities of law enforcement to serve all of the county residents — at no cost to the county?

Honoring our Anishinabe Veterans Fourth Annual Powwow

I don’t plan to use the Turtle Talk space to put plugs in for Pow Wows (well, rarely). This weekend one of my favorite traditional gatherings is happening in the E.U.P. Hope you can make it.

Honoring our Anishinabe Veterans Fourth Annual Powwow

Nov. 10 and Nov. 11 at the Kinross Recreation Center. Grand entry: Saturday at 1 and 7 p.m. and Sunday, 1 p.m. A feast/potluck will be held at 5 p.m., please bring a dish to pass. M.C, Bucko Teeple/ Tic Bush; head veteran, George Anziano; head male, Mike Willis; head female, Michele Willis; arena director, Butch Elliot. Invited drums are Bahweting Singers, Ogee Ma Miishishino, White Buffalo Cloud and Minidoo zaagigan. Blanket dance for all other drums. All traders welcome. All public is welcome. This is an alcohol and drug free event. For more information, call Bud Biron at (906) 635-1392

Indians Slammed in Online Discussion Boards

Recently I wrote a post discussing the balanced and progressive nature of media coverage of the 2007 Consent Decree. I remain impressed by this balanced coverage. It appears that the issue is far less contentious than when the Great Lakes portions of these treaty negotiations were being hashed out in 1985 (and even 2000). I have heard several people voice this opinion recently, and I agree with the general assessment.

However, I know that this issue is complex and that there are a myriad of opinions about the new Consent Decree. I have been wanting to hear what the general public is saying about this issue, so I started exploring hunting and fishing-oriented discussion forums. Here is a little bit of what is out there. I cut-and-pasted posts verbatim. Admittedly, without the context of entire threads this can be misleading (especially since the posts come from a few different threads); however, this sample gives you a general flavor of what is being discussed. These posts all came from one popular site,


“Quite a few tribes in the Lake States already do run their own hatcheries and stock fish.”


“the tribe up here has been stocking steelheads, coster brooktrout ,lake trout and they want to start with salmon soon from what i hear.”


Just FYI, the Tribes dump a lot of salmon into the water every year.



“Isn’t the treay invalid if tribal members live in the ceded land? The whole point was to have them move away.
I don’t think I want any more of my money supporting state lands in hte tribal areas.”


“Wow!, wish I was an Indian getting all the extra, plus living off the tax base:lol”


“Total BS,another issue of kiss the minority azs or else,never anything equal,
It should be the same across the board for EVERYONE,youths included,young,old,black or white”


“Maybe if everyone just starts making calls to the RAP line it will help. How am I to know if that person is legal under tribal laws? Will they be wearing a feather in their head?”


“Didn’t you hear the indians will receive the whiteman’s first born and a residential lot fee for your home along with accessing a road tax fee because your driving over their unknown cementery.”


“Come on guys the racial stereotyping and bashing of the native Americans has to be stopped or I’ll start closing all threads like this as soon as they open. There is room for open discussion on such matters but it must be done in a respectful way.”

2007 Consent Decree media coverage shows progress

I have been tracking media coverage of the 2007 Consent Decree and have been pleased to see that most reporting on the issue has been balanced and reasonable. It is well documented that media coverage of topics related to American Indians and Indian affairs has been unbalanced and has had impacts on both public perception and policy making. Media coverage of Indian issues is critical because the majority of the general public has little to no direct contact with American Indians or tribal officials and news reports therefore serve as a primary influence on public perceptions of these issues (Jarding, Social Science Journal 2004). Local and regional newspapers around the state, including those in Ludington, Escanaba and Sault Ste. Marie, continue to provide coverage of this topic and their journalists are providing very professional and informative articles.

Furthermore, the recent news reports have given us a sense for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ public discussions of the 2007 Consent Decree and I am pleased to see their level of professionalism and balanced presentation of the topic. Unfortunately I have not yet made it to any of the MDNR’s public meetings, but it seems based on the media coverage that the MDNR is doing a stand-up job of leading these important discussions. I hope the MDNR’s productive public discussion on the Consent Decree is a sign that they are willing to work in an intergovernmental fashion with the 1836 tribes to co-manage fish, wildlife and ecosystems in the Ceded Territory in the future.

Lastly, I recently reviewed materials posted on the MUCC website regarding the 2007 Consent Decree and was again, very excited to see balanced and useful information that shows an understanding of treaty law and is respectful to Indian people and tribal resource rights.

It appears we have learned some important lessons from past experiences of treaty negotiations regarding resource use and management in and out of Michigan. If the 1836 tribes, the MDNR, federal agencies and other key partners can work together cooperatively, there is no doubt we can build on respective strengths and improve ecological and socio-economic conditions in the region over time.

Map of 1836 Ceded Territory & Area of Interest for 2007 Consent Decree

The following map provides an overview of the 1836 Ceded Territory. I know Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians’ GIS and Natural Resource Departments collaborated with the Grand Traverse Band recently to create a more detailed map of the Ceded Territory. I will ask the creators of this more detailed map later this week and request access for the Blog.