Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe returning to roots with 902-acre land buy

East Tawas and Tawas Lake

EAST TAWAS, Mich (WJRT) (9/15/2017) - The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan says it reacquired part of its heritage with a 902-acre tract of land with a mile of frontage on Tawas Lake last month.

The tribe said in a press release issued on Friday that it purchased the land near East Tawas in August. The tribe's ancestors had ceded and given up control of the land centuries ago through treaties.

The land will strengthen the tribe's connection to their ancestors, who cultivated and hunted the tract for thousands of years. Today's tribal members and future generations will be able to maintain indigenous knowledge and rights using the 902-acre area, the press release says.

“This is an incredible opportunity for us to regain possession of a portion of our aboriginal lands," Tribal Chief Frank Cloutier said. "We will begin the work to re-establish our presence by developing cultural and traditional programming that will enhance our tribal community and its people. This is an incredible opportunity for the Tribe to share its rich culture and traditional values while providing a place to reconnect with Mother Earth”.

The tribe hopes the land will help connect its ancestors with current and future generations.

“The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan are the people who can step outside their doors onto the earth and say, 'My people have always been here. I walk where my ancestors walked 1,000 years ago,'" said Bonnie Ekdahl, tribal elder and former director of the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture & Lifeways. "We knew the forests, lakes and rivers. We knew where, when and how to gather the foods and medicines to live."

She hopes tribal members use the land to look at life differently than modern culture.

"It is OK to allow ourselves to step outside usual routines and look at creation. What is the season, what are the animals and birds doing at this time of year? They can still teach us if we listen and observe," Ekdahl says in the press release. "Access to this land will give us the freedom to reconnect with the seasonal calendar without fear of judgment and interruption. The people can learn and reconnect to the memories that still live within them.”