LANSING –State Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) and state Sen. Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City) have introduced legislation in honor of Michigan Indian Day. Each of the legislators introduced a resolution in their respective chambers memorializing the 41st celebration of Michigan Indian Day and recognizing the many contributions of Native Americans to our state. In addition, the legislators introduced bills in the House and Senate directing the Department of Natural Resources to create and implement a master plan to highlight and promote the history and culture of Michigan’s Anishinaabeg people. The purpose of the bills is to promote economic development and cultural tourism.
“Michigan, at the heart of the Great Lakes basin, has a rich and long history, extending long before Europeans first arrived,” Rep. Irwin said. “The indigenous tribes were the sole inhabitants of our state for more than 13,000 years, and there is a rich and underappreciated history to explore.”
The legislation has bipartisan support and was developed in consultation with tribal leaders, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and the governor’s tribal liaison. Tying in to the Pure Michigan Trails initiative, the Native American Heritage bills would make information available to people wishing to visit or learn more about the many places in Michigan that are significant to tribal history and culture. The DNR would work collaboratively with tribal leaders to identify, preserve and promote awareness of significant sites.
“Today, we welcome many of our tribal partners to the annual State-Tribal Summit, and we say ‘Migwitch’ to our tribal partners,” Irwin continued. “But, in order to fully recognize the contributions of Michigan’s many Native Americans, including our 12 federally recognized tribes, we need to go beyond mere words of welcome and work together to bring jobs and economic development. My bill, House Bill 4914, is a way for all of us to work together to understand and promote these pleasant peninsulas we share.”
Irwin, who is a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, also attended an opening ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda on Thursday morning. Members of the Match-e-be-nash-she-wish Band of Pottawatami Indians led a morning prayer followed by singing and hand drumming. Later, leaders from various tribal governments observed the House of Representatives session and were recognized from the floor.