On Indigenous People’s Day, Michigan in Color would like to express our ongoing solidarity with Native Americans and the Indigenous struggle against the forces of settler-colonialism for their legitimate claim on this land. As a University situated on the land stewarded by the Niswi Ishkodewan Anishinaabeg (The Three Fires People of the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi) and their neighbors the Seneca, Delaware, Shawnee and Wyandot nations, we have a personal responsibility to push against the colonial pedagogies of our curriculum. We urge readers to actively fight against the erasure of indigenous histories, not just today, but everyday. Michigan in Color is committed to uplifting the voices of marginalized communities, and as such would like to share a list of demands by the Decolonial Pedagogies Initiative. Below is a consolidated list of their demands, and here is the petition.

-The MiC Edit Staff

United Statement: Uplifting Diverse Indigenous Ontologies

We students find it imperative The University of Michigan accommodates institutional space for Diverse Indigenous Ontologies to take part in weaving our shared sustainable future through Decolonizing Pedagogies. Only through creating an ethics of reciprocity between the University of Michigan and the World will we be able to truly create an inclusive UofM. 

The United Statement and all demands of the Decolonizing Pedagogies Initiative (DPI) are made relevant by The University of Michigan’s existing mission statement:

“The mission of the University of Michigan is to serve the people of Michigan and the world through preeminence in creating, communicating, preserving and applying knowledge, art, and academic values, and in developing leaders and citizens who will challenge the present and enrich the future.”

Click here for more on the initiative and access to the full United Statement. (For print, https://www.seedsforchange.ca/decolonizingpedagogiesinitiative)

1. Considering the University of Michigan was founded following the establishment of The Fort Meigs Treaty, we assert that the Treaty be recognized beyond Land Acknowledgement and used as a reputable reference of Anishinaabek land and cultural rights, operating as a central focus for all University affairs. An Institutional Territorial Land Acknowledgement must exist to function as a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the Anishinaabek, Decolonial Faculty/Staff, Global Indigenous Faculty/Staff/Students and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Unit Plan Contacts.

2. A DPI Taskforce be created in evaluating and meeting the continuous needs of Anishinaabek and Global Indigenous students to serve a living document to the Board of Regents that reinforce the most recent Native American Student Task Force Committee Demands.

3. In an effort to combat The University of Michigan’s systemic erasure, we assert that Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island be represented by the name of their respective Nation, Tribe, Band or language family and not by terms imposed on them (e.g., “[American] Indian”), unless Indigenous stakeholders (e.g. Tribal Elders, Indigenous Community Leaders) explicitly request that the The University of Michigan reference them as Native American/American Indian, etc. 

4. Indigenous people of East Pacific, North Pacific and South Pacific descent be represented by their respective islands of Polynesian, Melanesian, Micronesian and Australasian heritage. Terms such as ‘Pacific Islander’ must be respective of their diverse Indigenous ontologies without omitting Indigenous people of New Zealand and Australia. Like the term Oceania, it must reflect all of Australia, Melanesia, Micronesia, Polynesia and some identifying populations of The Philippines. Indigenous communities depend on Michigan’s academic leadership to sustain lands, cultures and people far beyond Michigan’s state lines. For diverse students of Oceania to truly belong at The University of Michigan, Michigan’s structures and definitions must reflect their ontologies.

5. First Nations of Canada, Indigenous South Americans, Mesoamericans, Afro Caribbeans, Black Natives be regarded with rising respect and visibility as Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island. 

6. The University’s implementation of the Michigan Indian Tuition Waiver (MITW) be expanded beyond state law to support all First Nations Canadian and American Indigenous bands/tribes —- regardless of phenotype, enrollment status, federal recognition or blood quantum under the requirement that the Anishinaabek community members of Canada, North Dakota, Wyoming, Kansa, Montana, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota gain priority in the MITW. The University of Michigan must heed their responsibility to the Treaty of Fort Meigs by further encouraging institutional action that serves and works towards Indigenous and traditional knowledge systems that are overshadowed, ignored or suppressed by present programming developed within their settler-colonial model.

7. Make Higher Education accessible to Indigenous individuals impacted by generational traumas/erasure from Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), Foster care, Adoption, Removal and  Boarding Schools (genocide pedagogy). This includes Black Natives (unenrolled and enrolled), Displaced Natives, Urban Natives, Indigenous Bands/Tribes predating American borders, Federally non-recognized tribes and unenrolled Native Americans (all of which are not currently (2020) represented at The University of Michigan). 

8. Restore Indigenous ecological management into University of Michigan’s Carbon Neutrality initiative. We believe ‘establishing an effective path toward carbon neutrality for the University’s community and beyond’ must include Global Indigenous traditions, sustainable science, resource management, land management, food production, traditional environmental management, practices and processes included within the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs 2030 agenda.

Solidarity Statement 

This document was written and developed by Decolonial Academics throughout Turtle Island and The University of Michigan. On behalf of Anishinaabek Latinx, Taíno, Kanaka Maoli, Māori, Cook Island, Native American, Black Natives, Displaced Natives, Enrolled Natives, Unenrolled Natives, Native Americans impacted by erasure, Native Americans impacted by climate change, Native Americans impacted by ICWA, Native Americans of Foster Care Systems, Native Americans ‘disconnected’ by adoption, Native Americans impacted by generational trauma, Native Americans impacted by boarding school pedagogy, Native American and global Indigenous students and alumni impacted by genocide and climate change ask The University of Michigan to heed our statement and begin restoring their Treaty obligation by decolonizing The University of Michigan’s Pedagogies. 

All proposals entailed are intended to have elastic quality and benefit all Michigan students across all three campuses from the liberation of Indigenous epistemologies and pedagogies. All proposals made by students are to be verified and developed by Anishinaabek community Elders/leaders and Decolonial Scholars throughout the Great Lakes Region and beyond with an official Task Force to develop DPI into sustainable action.

The United Statement respectfully acknowledges the abolishment of Prop 2/Affirmative Action within The University of Michigan’s three respective campuses. However, we ask The University of Michigan continue to enhance support for all marginalized students beyond race, gender, ethnicity or national origin in student success programming to recruit, retain and sustain students impacted by climate change, natural disaster, lack of clean water, economic deprivation, settler-colonialism, genocide, malnourishment, generational trauma, urbanization, erasure and Tribal Sovereignty.

*Roxana Tanginya contributed to the formation of this piece.

Samara Jackson Tobey can be reached at samajack@umich.edu

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