Treaty Commemoration at MSU: Edweying Naabing//Looking at the Past and Present Symposium


Michigan State University resides on Land ceded in the 1819 Treaty of Saginaw. To mark the 200th commemoration of this treaty, join us September 20-21, 2019 at the MSU College of Law to listen and learn from nearly 30 speakers at the Edweying Naabing Symposium. Just one month away!

Looking at the Past and Present to Imagine the Future

Symposium topics include Universities & Treaty Responsibility, Anishinaabemowin, Food and Environmental Justice, Settler Colonialism in the Great Lakes Region, Educational Sovereignty, and more. For a full list of panels, please see the tentative agenda-at-glance.

Register Today

Events are free and registration can be found here. Meals are provided for pre-registered symposium attendees. Coinciding with the symposium, the University will also host Native Family Day on September 21, 2019. Native Family Day is an event for Anishinaabeg and other Indigenous youth and their families to visit campus, hear from current students, and take an indigenized campus tour.


All ages are encouraged to come to campus and take part in this series of programming, which is designed to raise awareness about the history of the Land on which MSU resides. Please contact with questions.

Event page:
Facebook event:

Edweying Naabing//Looking at the Past and Present Symposium is co-hosted by the MSU Indigenous Law and Policy Center, American Indian and Indigenous Studies, and Native American Institute. Programming is supported by various co-sponsors.



Confederation of Michigan Tribal Education Directors Seek Public Comment on Social Studies Standards


Announcement/guidance form here.

To comment online, use the online Social Studies Standard Survey. Scroll to the second paragraph and click “online survey.” For more information and suggestions, see pages 3-4 of the announcement.

Upcoming Listen & Learn Meetings

To comment in person, attend a meeting below and fill out a form requesting to speak. For more information, see page 2 of the announcement.

Lansing May 2 6:00-8:00pm today!
Michigan Historical Center and Library, 702 W. Kalamazoo, Lansing, MI 48915

Grand Rapids May 6 6:00-8:00pm
Kent Intermediate School District
2930 Knapp Road
Grand Rapids, MI 49525

Gaylord May 7 6:00-8:00pm
University Center Gaylord
80 Livingston Blvd.
Gaylord, MI 49735

Sault Ste. Marie May 8 6:00-8:00pm
Eastern Upper Peninsula Intermediate School District
315 Armory Place
Sault Ste. Marie, MI 49783

Escanaba May 9 6:00-8:00pm
Delta Schoolcraft Intermediate School District
2525 3rd Avenue S.
Escanaba, MI 49829

Anishinaabe nibi inaakonigewin (water law) gathering

Announcement from Professor Aimée Craft:

I hope that you will consider joining us for the Anishinaabe nibi (water) gathering taking place in the Whiteshell this June. After a few years of gathering with Elders on a project relating to Anishinaabe nibi inaakonigewin (water law), we are inviting people to come and learn about water teachings in an outdoor teaching lodge format.  We want to focus on youth participation and attendance.

Please share with your networks and people you think would be interested in attending.  All are welcome. 

To RSVP and for questions:

*Also, please consider bringing a young person to accompany you or assist us with travel funding for youth.*

 Agenda – Nibi Gathering – June 2015

Map – Nibi Gathering

Poster Nibi Gathering

Fletcher on “Tribal Membership and Indian Nationhood”

I just posted a short paper prepared for an American Indian Law Review symposium on Indians and identity. The paper, “Tribal Membership and Indian Nationhood,” is a sort of sequel to my NYT’s piece on the Cherokee Freedmen (link to that whole debate is here).

Here is the abstract of the new paper:

American Indian tribes are in a crisis of identity. No one can rationally devise a boundary line between who is an American Indian and who is not. Despite this, each federally recognized tribe has devised a legal standard to apply in deciding who is a member and who is not. Even with some ambiguity and much litigation, these are relatively bright lines. Some Indians are eligible for membership, and others are not eligible. In some rare circumstances, some non-Indians are eligible and become members. However, these bright line rules are crude instruments for determining identity, and often generate outcomes that conflict with legitimate Indian identity.

This paper is about Indian tribes and Indian nations. For purposes of this discussion, there is a difference between the two. I hope to discuss how Indian tribes, shackled to some extent by these intractable questions, can develop into Indian nations. I believe there is room in the American constitutional structure for Indian nations.

I will define what I mean by Indian nationhood. I draw from pre-contact and early post-contact Anishinaabe history to reinvigorate what nationhood meant traditionally. I argue that nations must allow nonmembers some form of political power, though I leave specific details to others. I conclude by arguing that Indian nationhood, in the long-run, is a laudable and perhaps even mandatory goal for modern tribal communities’ survival.

Recent Books on Tribal Leadership During Treaty Times

We want to highlight two recent books — both excellent in their own ways — on Indian leaders during (roughly) treaty times. First, Anton Treuer’s book, The Assassination of Hole in the Day (available online at Birchbark Books, the greatest bookstore in the world), published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press, is a truly entertaining read. It is one of the rare books that makes extensive use of Indian oral histories, and gives these histories the credence they so often deserve. The story of Hole in the Day’s murder by his own people is a classic tale of Anishinaabe political leadership that more or less tracks the rise and fall of Julius Ceasar. Important leader, does some great and terrible things, overreaches, loses power, and eventually loses life. But real import, however, is the impact of treaty negotiations on Aninshinaabe leaders.

The second book, Brian Hicks’ Toward the Setting Sun: John Ross, the Cherokees, and the Trail of Tears (available here), was published by the Atlantic Monthly Press, and is another entertaining read. And like Treuer’s book, this is a great study of how tribal leadership operated during these amazing times.

Kennecott Mine Permits Okayed

From Michigan Messenger (h/t to A.K.) [DEQ press release here]:

Two days before the DEQceases to exist and a week after its director stepped down, DEQ moved to wrap up a long standing fight over permits for a planned nickel sulfide mine by concluding that only buildings may be considered “places of worship.”

A rock that is sacred toAnishnabe people need not be considered when issuing a mining permit because state law only recognizes buildings as places of worship, the Department of Environmental Quality announced Thursday.

This decision cleared the way for DEQ to finalize permits for a mine planned for public land on the Yellow Dog Plain northwest of Marquette.

The resolution comes at a time of great tumult for the department. Director Steven Chester resigned last week, and the department is slated to come under the leadership of DNR director Rebecca Humphries when it is rolled into the new Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment on Jan. 17.

For seven years the Kennecott Eagle Minerals Company, a subsidiary of London-based Rio Tinto, has been trying to develop the mine project. The company promised hundreds of construction and mining jobs but has faced opposition from groups that are concerned that acid drainage from the mine will damage the nearby Salmon Trout River and Lake Superior.

The National Wildlife FederationKeweenaw Bay Indian CommunityYellow Dog Watershed Preserve, and the Huron Mountain Club together filed an administrative appeal of DEQ’s 2007 approval of mining and groundwater discharge permits for the mine. Continue reading

Anishinaabek Leader on the Canadian Indian Act

From the North Bay Nugget:

Message from Grand Council Chief John Beaucage–

Prior to contact, the Anishinaabe lived in peace and harmony with each other, living off the bounty of our Mother Earth. We acknowledged each other- our distinct bands and traditional territories. We respected our boundaries — not borders — out of respect for our neighbours. We harvested only what was needed, always mindful of sacred law and ensuring our food sources — the plants, animals, birds and fish — would remain abundant for seven generations into the future.

We governed ourselves according to that same sacred law. The Creator gave us the Clan System as a means to govern our day-to-day affairs, set priorities, and look after the needs of the community as a whole.

Continue reading

Fletcher on “Laughing Whitefish” and Tribal Customary Law

Matthew Fletcher posted “Laughing Whitefish: A Tale of Justice and Anishinaabe Custom” on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Laughing Whitefish, a novel by Robert Traver, the pen name of former Michigan Supreme Court Justice John Voelker, is the fictionalized story of a case that reached the Michigan Supreme Court three times, culminating in Kobogum v. Jackson Iron Co., 43 N.W. 602 (Mich. 1889). The petitioner, Charlotte Kobogum, an Ojibwe Indian from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, brought suit to recover under a note issued to her father, Marji Gesick, by the mining company in the 1840s. The company had promised a share in the company because he had led them to one of the largest iron ore deposits in the country, the famed Jackson Mine. Despite the company’s defense that Mr. Gesick was a polygamist and therefore Ms. Kobogum could not be his legitimate heir, the Michigan Supreme Court held that state courts had no right to interfere with internal, domestic relations of reservation Indians, and upheld the claim. Justice Voelker’s tale is a powerful defense of the decision, and offers insights into why state courts should recognize the judgments of tribal courts even today.

book cover of   Laughing Whitefish   by  Robert Traver