Indigenous Peoples’ Day: History, Treaties and Sovereignty


Lake Superior State University was honored to host Whitney Gravelle, president of the executive council of the Bay Mills Indian Community, at its Indigenous Peoples’ Day event held on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022, in the University Library.

The event was held to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day and highlighted the history of the Bay Mills Indian Community and Tribal nations in the state of Michigan as well as the importance of treaties and sovereignty. The event also featured a recitation of the University’s Land Acknowledgment by LSSU President Dr. Rodney S. Hanley. LSSU prepared an Indigenous-themed dinner at its Quarterdeck that night as well to mark the occasion.

Indigenous Peoples Day LSSU students, faculty, and community members gathered to listen to Gravelle’s talk. “Indigenous Peoples’ Day is about celebrating, acknowledging, and remembering the many great Indigenous people that came before us, are among us now, and are yet to be,” she said in summation. “From the invention of canoes, the development of maple syrup, or the protection of treaty rights and traditional lifeways, there are many things to be proud of as an Indigenous person in Michigan.”

The University selected this day to read a Land Acknowledgment statement to recognize Indigenous peoples as traditional stewards of this land and the enduring relationship that exists between Indigenous peoples and their traditional territories, including the land on which the University resides today. The University recognizes the significance of this acknowledgment and the importance of continued work to build relationships with Tribal communities throughout the region. Guided by LSSU’s strategic plan, the University remains committed to incorporating the history, traditions, languages, and cultures of Indigenous peoples into all University service areas, and to supporting a learning environment for all students to flourish.

“One priority of the Lake State strategic plan involves diversity, inclusion, and belonging, while another encompasses community partnerships and engagement. In fact, Tribal leaders provided invaluable input in the formulation of the Lake State strategic plan—which makes a point of indicating that the Eastern Upper Peninsula is further enhanced by the presence of several vibrant Tribal communities. The Lake State student body has long counted Indigenous peoples as cherished Lakers. Additionally, Lake State’s Native American Center is dedicated to servicing the needs of Native American students and preserving and teaching about the local Native American culture, history, and traditions. So it was important for Lake State to commemorate Indigenous Peoples’ Day and the Land Acknowledgment with our Tribal neighbors,” said President Dr. Hanley.

“Through occasions like this,” he continued, “LSSU continues to implement a variety of tactics to collaborate and reinforce relationships with our Tribal partners to promote Native American cultures; incorporate history, traditions, languages, and cultures of Indigenous peoples in all other LSSU functions; enfold the history of Indigenous cultures in general education; and establish as a graduation requirement for baccalaureate degrees the completion of at least one course with Indigenous cultural content.”

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