The first event I attended was a film called “Warrior Lawyers” about the native court system in Michigan, including a panel discussion with the filmmaker and one of the judges afterwards. I learned that tribal courts tend towards a model of restorative justice that emphasizes relationship and atonement for harm done, rather than guilt and punishment--an approach that is resonant with UU values. A few of the Michigan state courts are experimenting with this restorative justice model as well.
Secondly, I facilitated a panel discussion where three members of our fellowship talked about their experience working with the tribe, using the published report “Study of Micro-Aggressions and Other Hostile Encounters Between Tribal Members and Non-Natives in Isabella County”
as a reference and a guide. The panelists and the attendees that evening all identified as white, which meant that we were trying to understand more about the Saginaw Chippewa Indian tribe as outsiders, with a goal of being allies. The panelists were careful to say that none of them were experts, yet some of them had worked with the tribe for years. A take-home message for me from the report and from the panelists is that negative stereotypes about the tribe persist in this community; and that the Saginaw Chippewa Indian tribe, like any group of people, is not monolithic but diverse.
Most recently, a small group of UUFCM members took a guided tour of the Ziibiwing Center. It was my third time visiting the museum, and my first time doing so with a Native American guide. His comments throughout the tour offered a rich insight into his people’s history and culture. A poignant moment was when he asked us to name our children and to imagine if they had been taken away from us the way that native children were taken to the boarding school.
This brings me to the next event coming up: the commemoration of the 88th anniversary of the Mount Pleasant Boarding School closing. The history of this institution, where the mistreatment of children was brutal and deliberate with the aim of separating them from their sense of cultural identity, is just beginning to sink in for me. Monday June 6 is the day of “Honoring, Healing and Remembering” with sacred ceremonies, prayers, dances, and speakers all day (7:00–4:00). All members and friends are invited to attend. We will have a discussion to prepare ourselves for this sacred commemoration event on Sunday June 5 at 1:00. A history of the boarding school is available on our website and through our email newsletter for further reading.
Great Spirit, divine spark of life within colonists and natives, within all of us no matter our ancestry: be here now. May your blessing be upon the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe in this moment of remembering the unthinkable violence done to their children a few generations ago in this place.
May the necessary truths be told, no matter how difficult to hear. May those of us who are white learn from the past and resolve to build a better today.
May greater love and understanding, greater harmony among all people, bless this community and every human community on Earth.
Rev. Andrew Frantz
June 2, 2022