A traditional pow-wow at Central Michigan University. (photo via cmich.edu)
A traditional pow-wow at Central Michigan University. (photo via cmich.edu)

MICHIGAN—Michigan is home to 12 Native Indian tribes, so Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Oct. 10 is a high priority in the Mitten State. And the day is about more than just celebrating history.

The holiday is about celebrating Native American culture, and recognizing the continued legacy of American Indians—as well as the impact that colonialism has had on Native communities.

It’s also a day dedicated to education, and for viewing history from a different perspective. 

Here are five ways you can acknowledge Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Michigan.

Honor the land.

If you’re in Michigan, you’re standing on stolen land. Before you celebrate, acknowledge that—and do some research on the history of Native American tribes from your area.

The National Cherry Festival usually includes a Pow-Wow on Heritage Day. (Photo via Traverse City Tourism)

Long before Traverse City became wine country, for example, it was home to the Ojibwe, Ottawa and Potawatomi people. European settlers killed the Natives in the area.

Explore the history, culture and traditions—and don’t be afraid to share what you find. It’s essential to have ongoing conversations and education to keep the history alive.

Learn the language. 

Different tribes have different traditions. But they also shared a lot of the same culture. The Ojibwe, Ottawa and Potawatomi tribes—the three largest in Michigan—form the longstanding “Council of Three Fires,” and they share the same language, with similar customs and beliefs to match. 

The Ojibwe, Ottawa and Potawatomi were the three largest tribes in Michigan. (Photo via Michigan State University)

That shared language is Anishinaabemowin, and there were fewer than 9,000 people fluent in the language in 2010, according to the US Census Bureau. Since the population of speakers is an aging one, that number is likely much lower this year. But all is not lost: There are still classes being taught today to keep the language alive—like this free virtual lesson that’s scheduled for Oct. 10. 

Take in the artwork. 

Another way to acknowledge Indigenous Peoples’ Day is by appreciating Native artists at a local museum. For a day of learning and plenty of art, check out the Museum of Ojibwa Culture in St. Ignace.

The Museum of Ojibwa Culture in St. Ignace (photo via museumofojibwaculture.net)

This year, the museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Oct. 31. It also hosts fun outdoor culture and history lessons on Monday, Tuesday and Friday evenings during July and August. 

Stand up against racism. 

Schools and sports teams across the country have become increasingly aware of the offensive themes that certain mascots, names and logos can have on Native American communities—and in recent years, efforts to remove them have been growing. 

Okemos High School dropped its “chieftains” mascot in favor of this less offensive “wolves” moniker.

Seven waterways in Michigan, for example, were renamed this year because they contained an offensive slur. Okemos High School near Lansing also dropped a racist nickname that it had used for its sports teams. But not every remnant of bigotry has been wiped clean in Michigan—and all it takes is one person to stand up, and advocate for continued change. There’s even funding available to make it happen. 

The Native American Heritage Fund gives out up to $500,000 every year to assist school districts in making adjustments to their outdated logos and mascots.

Attend a celebration.

Spend some time researching different events in your neck of the woods—which can include big festivals, online lessons, and smaller panel discussions about Native American issues.

Northwestern Michigan College, as just one example, is planning an afternoon of drumming, dancing, education and other fun for its annual Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration from 2-4 p.m. on Oct. 10 

Donate to Indigenous-led organizations.

The Michigan Indian Elders Association represents the 12 federally recognized tribes in Michigan, and is designed to help tribal leaders to foster ongoing supportive relations with the younger members.

It also helps promote education—including through a series of scholarships.

The association runs mostly from donations, and it has spent most of its cash over the last decade on student-related programs that offer incentives to students with perfect attendance or straight A’s. For more details on how to get involved or donate, visit the Michigan Indian Elders Association website.