As part of the Native American Heritage Month celebration on campus, a virtual panel held Monday evening honored the Burt Lake Band and raised awareness on representations of Native identities and climate justice.

As part of the Native American Heritage Month celebration on campus, a virtual panel held Monday evening honored the Burt Lake Band and raised awareness on representations of Native identities and climate justice. The Burt Lake Band is a federally recognized band that primarily has history in Northern Michigan lands. 

To observe Native American Heritage Month, the Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs and the Native American Student Association has worked with campus partners to plan events throughout the month of November to celebrate Native American culture.

Two student coordinators, Art & Design junior Zoi Rk Crampton and LSA junior Solomon Milner, moderated the panel, and more than 100 members of the community joined the webinar. They began the event by introducing the four panelists: Dr. Kyle Whyte, Dr. Margaret Noodin, Eva Roos and Malulani Castro. 

Noodin, a professor of English and American Indian studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, emphasized the importance of the use of space and how people occupy one another’s land. 

“We have some people from the Burt Lake Band here, and the times that I’ve been able to be in their space where they still maintain a connection to that place, it’s been so important to think about why people are in space and what their role was in the space,” Noodin said. “These places that we have people in and the ways that they move around that they invite other people to them, the relationships they maintain with the nonhumans in those spaces are really important.” 

Whyte, a professor of Environmental and Sustainability and George Wallace Pack professor at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability, explained his work on the topic of climate change. He said that many Indigenous peoples have been interested in and aware of climate change for generations. 

“Climate change is something that is very closely tied to the relationships that people have with land,” Whyte said. “In a lot of work that I’ve been a part of, one of the things that we’ve noticed is that Native people can tell whether the climate is changing based on how different activities throughout the year are also shifting.” 

Rackham student Maxime Groen attended multiple of the NAHM events throughout the month. In an email to The Michigan Daily, Groen said her main takeaway from the panel was her shift in understanding the LANDBACK movement through the stories shared by panelists.

“Many times, people become threatened by their own perceived disinheritance of LANDBACK or they depict LANDBACK as too radical,” Groen wrote. “The stories shared last night helped to reveal ways that this isn’t necessarily true. LANDBACK is so much more than Indigenous People claiming private property rights. It is about rebuilding and rematriating kinship, relationships, language and collectivity. It is about coalition, stewardship, and raising awareness of Indigeneity.”

Groen also said she hopes the events throughout Native American Heritage Month help attendees to engage meaningfully and courteously with Indigenous peoples’ efforts. She specifically appreciated Noodin and Roos’ interpretations of how the Anishinaabemowin language can influence one’s environment and life. 

“There were teachings of ontologies, sharing of stories, suggested ways forward, and invitations for viewers to engage more deeply in how people can support Indigeneity in our environments,” Groen wrote. “Dr. Noodin offered further insight on how Anishinaabemowin through song and language can enhance well-being, help us to be calm, answer questions, and show us how to relatThe Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs has helped plan and execute NAHM. In an email statement to The Daily, MESA Associate Director Krishna Han said he valued the restorative approach that each panelist expressed when describing their work and encouraging attendees to be a part of the solution in a relational way. 

“I learned so much from this panel and I hope panel attendees recognize that there is so much we can learn about Indigenous knowledge and philosophies, living harmoniously with Mother Earth,” Han wrote. “The importance of kinship, community-based approaches to environmental sustainability, and the recognition that Native Americans have been stewards of this land and guardians of all ecological surroundings.”e to the world in our everyday lives. I really appreciated this teaching.”

Eva Roos, co-director of a new disciplinary humanities program at U-M’s biological station called GLACE and landscape designer, has collaborated with the Burt Lake Band to implement a healing garden to rebuild relationships and represent healing. 

Roos said she got involved in the panel for Native American Heritage Month because of her experience with the LANDBACK movement, the goal of which is to give Indigenous people back land that was taken from them in the past.

In the future, Roos said that she hopes more students and members of the campus community will engage in the Native American Heritage Month events so the topic of land back can be “less amorphous and more tangible to everyone.”

“My favorite part of the event was listening to the other presenters and seeing the enthusiasm in the comment section,” Roos said. “ I hope that this reaches people who have never attended a Native American Heritage Month event ever before or maybe this is their first time engaging with any sort of Indigenous culture social issues. Not just the choir, but to people in all disciplines and again that it can help them realize how these issues connect to all realms of studies and practice.”

Daily Staff Reporter Kaitlyn Luckoff can be reached at

Correction: A previous version of this article included misspelled words and a last name.