Territorial Acknowledgement in English

Read the acknowledgement in Anishinaabemowin.

The People of the Three Fires — the Bodewadmi, the Odawa, and the Ojibwe — collectively named the Anishinaabe, lived in the lands and the waterways of the Michigami before the first white settlers arrived here, and they continue to live here still. The University of Michigan owes its creation to them.

In 1817, during a time when matters pertaining to natives were handled by the United States’ War Department, and two decades before The Trail of Death, the Treaty of Fort Meigs (also known as the "Foot of the Rapids”) was signed by the Wyandot, Seneca, Delaware, Shawnee, Anishinaabe, and representatives of the United States government. In this treaty, the Anishinaabe peoples ceded 1,920 acres of land “believing they may wish some of their children hereafter educated.” For the next 130 years, there were no records of Native Americans enrolled at the university. 

In 1965, Paul Johnson was a sophomore at the University of Michigan on a full football scholarship. He was one of the first Anishinaabe in Michigan’s starting lineup, and that year received All-Big Ten Honorable Mention. After finishing his bachelor’s degree, he would go on to earn two master's degrees before coaching with Bump Elliott and Bo Schembechler. In 1971, Paul Johnson sued the University of Michigan on behalf of future Anishinaabe students. He wished the University of Michigan to honor the free education treaty rights granted to Chippewa, Ottawa, and Pottawatomie children in the Fort Meigs Treaty in exchange for the land that provided the beginnings of the university. The case went to the Supreme Court where it was decided that though there might be a moral responsibility, there was no legal obligation to provide education to the Anishinaabe. 

Without their gift of land, sold to create the original endowment upon which this university stands, none of us would be part of the community we have today. Jackie Vaughn III, a Democratic member of both Michigan legislative houses, recognized this. He listened when the Great Lakes Indian Youth Alliance asked him for assistance and introduced the Michigan Indian Tuition Waiver Program. Though the waiver has provided assistance to 6,000 Native students at public institutions across Michigan, not all Michigan natives are included. Tribal members of state-recognized tribes, those without land due to settlement burning or death marches, and those failing to meet blood quantum requirements are excluded.

University of Michigan Library is deeply indebted to the Wyandot and Anishinaabe Peoples, and we still have much work to do in order to honor the intent and spirit of the treaty upon which we were founded. The University of Michigan Library believes in learning from our past and making good on our words through action. In the past, the library did not reflect diversity in its collection authorship or opinions, used outdated and unacceptable subject headings irrespective of Indigenous names, and took part in other actions that did not respect the original peoples of this land. Furthermore, this land acknowledgement is intended as a living document, in recognition that acknowledging the land is but one step of many on a longer journey, rather than an end goal. We commit to beginning this journey through metadata remediation, and entering into the right relationship with tribal communities by offering free library borrowing privileges to every member of a Michigan tribe.


Last updated: April 25, 2024