The native inhabitants of the Saginaw Valley were honored in a special ceremony Monday, October 9.
As part of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which recognizes and celebrates Native American cultures and traditions, the city of Saginaw partnered with Saginaw Valley State University’s Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum and erected a marker on Ojibway Island. The marker, in both the language of the Anishinaabe (Anishinaabemowin) and in English, acknowledges the city as part of the homeland of the Anishinaabe People, which include the Odawa, Ojibwa and Pottawatomi.
Starting around 10:30 a.m., members of the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe and the Saginaw community joined together to commemorate the event. Tribal members with the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinaabe Culture and Lifeways in Mount Pleasant performed traditional powwow dances, including all gathered in a final dance of friendship and community.
Tribal member Frank Cloutier says the day and the event are significant in that after hundreds of years of losing their land, languages and lives, people are now learning about native history and, even more importantly, willing to talk about it.
“We’re 1.7 percent of the entire population of the world. You know, we have minority groups that have outgrown us, that are larger than us. When you stop and think that we were actually the aboriginal people of North America, and to see so few of us now, it’s significant that people are not only willing to acknowledge that, but to talk about it. To teach what we’ve learned, in this walk that we’ve taken together, and how when we come together, we’re better together.”
There are 12 federally recognized Native American tribes in the state of Michigan. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer first proclaimed Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Michigan on October 14, 2019, and it is recognized in Michigan on the second Monday in October, alongside Columbus Day.
Cloutier says having a city like Saginaw and the state acknowledge native peoples shows action can be taken to advance their recognition and support.
“It shows that all of our efforts are growing. It shows that people are not only willing to talk about it, but actually willing to do something about it. It’s really important to our people that they’re acknowledged for the price they paid. To bring America to what it is today. And we need to continue to do a better a job, and be stewards of Mother Earth. It’s very important.”
Following the ceremony, attendees gathered at the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum for an exhibit titled, “Vitality and Continuity: Art in the Experiences of Anishinaabe, Inuit, and Pueblo Women.”