Indigenous People’s Day: A Look at the Chippewa Culture

Story by Alison Veresh

Today is Indigenous People’s Day, a holiday to honor the many Native American tribes living in the United States.

This hits close to home, as the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Reservation is located near the Central Michigan University campus, and is actively involved in educating both the CMU and Mount Pleasant community.

“I think all students, staff, community members need to step outside their box and really embrace other people’s cultures,” said Colleen Green, director of the Native American Programs office in the Bovee University Center.

When students come to CMU, they might not have much knowledge of a Native American lifestyle because they were not raised near a reservation or other prominent places of Native American culture.

In the United States, there are approximately 326 Federal Indian Reservations on 56.2 million acres of land, according to the US Department of the Interior Indian Affairs.

CMU is right next to the Isabella County Indian Reservation, home to the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Nation. The university and various departments of the tribe collaborate on many different aspects of the university, such as athletic branding of the Chippewa name, education of students and collaboration between the university and tribal college, according to the Public Relations Representative for the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe, Erik Rodriguez.

Students at CMU have the opportunity to learn about another culture and learn to empathize with the issues Native American communities face today, as well as utilizing the other resources to broaden their horizons.
Indigenous Day Events

The office of Native American Programs in the Bovee University Center plays a key role in the education of the CMU campus. The office holds many question and answer presentations in classes as well as plans events to teach students about Native American culture.

Today, two main programs are being hosted to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day.

The documentary, “Two Spirits” will be shown in Brooks Auditorium 176 starting at 4 p.m. ‘Two Spirits” tells the tragic tale of Frank Martinez, a 16-year-old Navajo boy who was murdered. Frank practiced the Navajo tradition of Nadleeh, or Two Spirits, which involves the balance of masculinity and femininity. Frank’s murder is a result of ignorance and misunderstanding of Nadleeh in society.

Following the viewing, a question and answer discussion will open up. From 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., a presentation about the evolution of the Pow Wow will occur in the Kiva Auditorium in Moore Hall. Participants will learn about the impact of colonialism on the Pow Wow, the meanings of Pow Wow protocol and the special meaning of themselves in the Pow Wow circle. Both events are free and open to everyone.

The Ziibwing Center
The Ziibwing Center is a way to learn about the Chippewa Indian culture as well. The museum walks visitors through the history of the Anishinabe people and its integration with the Seven Prophesies, a prediction of the future given to the people many years ago. Through the Ziibwing Center, students can understand the meaning behind symbols and the struggles throughout history of the Anishinabe people to remain together and thriving. The last areas of the exhibit educate visitors on the current life on the reservation and of Chippewa culture preservation and practice.

Bringing Tradition onto the Field
At the home football game on Oct. 29, the athletics department will celebrate Traditions Day.

Traditions Day is “in honor of the relationship between the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe and CMU, acknowledging the history of Native American culture,” Rodriguez said

During pre-game, the tribe will play a Warrior Song on the drums. The Tribal Council also will come on the field during various times to talk about the Chippewa community. Attendees at the football game will have the opportunity to learn and experience Native American drumming.

Awareness of the Chippewa culture is not only important for respect, but because members of the Chippewa Tribe are members of the CMU community as well.