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Story of Our People

Origins of the Mackinac Bands

The Anishinaabeg (which can mean ‘Original People’ or ‘Spontaneous Beings’) have lived in the Great Lakes area for millenia. Some of the oldest legends recall the ice packs breaking on Lake Nipissing and archeologists have found Anishinaabeg sites from 3000 B.C. Legends speak of immigrations to and from the Great Lakes over the centuries. Mackinac Bands’ ancestors were Anishinaabeg fishing tribes whose settlements dotted the upper Great Lakes around Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, throughout the Straits of Mackinac. Anishinaabeg gathered for the summers in places like Michilimackinac (Mackinac Island) and broke up into family units for the winter. They hunted, fished and gathered and preserved food for the winter. They were respectful to their elders and treasured their children. They conducted ceremonies for good health, thanksgiving, war, funerals and other things and strove to conduct their lives in a good way. Anishinaabeg lived this way for hundreds of years until the arrival of European settlers in the 1600s. The Anishinaabeg had dealings with first the French, then the English, then the United States. The Anishinaabeg lifeway began to deteriorate as the people were placed on reservations, sent to boarding schools, along with other attempts to matriculate them into American mainstream society.

The Struggle for Federal Recognition

Currently the Mackinac Bands of Chippewa and Ottawa Indians is a State Recognized Tribe. The Mackinac Bands have been recognized as a State Historic Tribe by the State of Michigan since at least 2012. Mackinac Bands members have come to understand that while the treaties granted large tracks of land to the federal government, the documents did not end our sovereignty or terminate our ancestral right to hunt and fish on the ceded lands and waters of the Ojibwe. Federal recognition will let the tribe contract with the federal government for basic services. Federal recognition will restore our sovereignty as a separate nation within the United States, give focus to our land claims, open the door to elect a government able to take land into trust and lead to the recognition of our treaty rights to hunt and fish.

You can help the Mackinac Bands regain Federal Recognition by donating here!

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European Settlement

When French sovereignty ended in 1763, the English took over the wealthy fur trade. By 1820, the British had been replaced by Americans. A second treaty, the 1836 Treaty of Washington ceded northern lower Michigan and the eastern portion of the Upper Peninsula to the United States. In return, the Anishinaabeg of the Mackinac Bands received cash payments and ownership to about thousands of acres of land. But over the next 20 years, they watched as white settlers moving into northern Michigan violated terms of the treaty. So in 1855, the chiefs signed another treaty, 1855 Treaty with the Ottawa and Chippewa with the Americans that allotted lands to Michigan Indian families.

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