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Honoring Indigenous People's Day

On this day, we honor, celebrate, and acknowledge the Indigenous People who first occupied the land we live on today. In 1492, Christopher Columbus arrived in the present-day Americas to land that had been occupied by the Indigenous Peoples for thousands of years. This began a long history of murder, enslavement, war, displacement, and theft of the Indigenous People by Europeans. Here at Gryphon Place, we recognize that the land we live, work, and learn on is stolen land that belongs to the Potawatomi people.

We gather on the land of the Council of the Three Fires – the Ojibwe, the Odawa, and the Potawatomi. Indigenous nations of the Great Lakes region are also known as the Anishinaabe (Ah-nish-nah-bay), or original people, and their language is Anishinaabemowin (Ah-nish-nah-bay-mow-in). “Kalamazoo” itself is derived from the Anishinaabe word meaning to surround with smoke and reflects the way the mist rises off the Kalamazoo River. Gryphon Place specifically rests on the land of the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Potawatomi (also known as the Gun Lake Tribe) and the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi.

The United States began seeking land cessions in Michigan after the defeat of the British and their Anishinaabe allies in the War of 1812. Southwest Michigan was ceded in the 1821 Treaty of Chicago with small tracts of land reserved at the sites of prominent Potawatomi villages, including a three-mile square area for Match-e-be-nash-she-wish in present-day Kalamazoo. Under the 1827 Treaty of St. Joseph, the U.S. government did away with four of the five reserved areas, including the one in Kalamazoo, in an attempt to consolidate the Potawatomi as a precursor to removal west. Although many Potawatomi were forcibly removed in 1840, some bands found ways to remain, including the Match-e-be-nash-she-wish band. Their descendants belong to the sovereign nation known as the Gun Lake Tribe. The Tribe has never been compensated for the loss of their Kalamazoo reserve. We acknowledge the enduring relationship that exists between the People of the Three Fires and this land.

Public Health Data (trigger warning: sexual assault, violence, suicide)

Indigenous People experience a variety of public health concerns at disproportionate rates, including poverty, mental illness, suicide, and domestic violence. According to NAMI, almost one fifth of Indigenous American adults experience mental illness. NAMI also shares that suicide is the second leading cause of death among Indigenous American youth aged 8-24 with Indigenous American youth aged 10-24 having the highest rate of suicide of all demographic groups, more than doubling the rate of suicide among white adolescents. Additionally, Indigenous Americans experience substance abuse at earlier ages and higher rates than any other ethnic groups.

Indigenous women experience drastically higher rates of domestic violence, sexual assault, and murder. According to Native Women's Wilderness, Indigenous Women and Girls are murdered at a rate 10 times higher than all other ethnicities, almost 85% of Indigenous Women have experienced violence, and more than half have been physically abused by their intimate partners. Although these statistics are shocking, these crimes often go unreported or unacknowledged by the U.S. Federal and State Governments. One resource that has been created from these tragedies is the StrongHearts Native Helpline, created in collaboration with the National Domestic Violence Hotline. This service provides culturally competent call, text, and chat services for survivors, friends, and partners of those experiencing domestic and sexual violence.

For more information about the public health disparities Indigenous People face, learn more with the United Nations, the Indian Health Service, and SAMHSA.

Honoring and Celebrating Indigenous Culture

Are you wondering how you can appropriately and respectfully honor Indigenous People on this day and every day?

Educate Yourself and Others: Learn more about the history and culture of the Potawatomi, the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Potawatomi, and the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi on their websites. There are also numerous podcasts, books, and documentaries about the history and culture of Indigenous People across the globe.

Take Action: Indigenous People's Day is observed by 34 U.S. states (including Michigan), while the remaining 16 states and federal government continue to recognize Columbus Day as a holiday. Indigenous People and Communities request that the U.S. Government removes Columbus Day as a federal holiday. You can learn more about this issue and join their efforts by signing a petition.

Connect with Community: Western Michigan University is hosting a panel discussion that will also include a traditional smudge ceremony and drumming (see photo for more details). You can also support the social media accounts and see upcoming events of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi and the Gun Lake Tribe.


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