Andrews University Releases a Land Acknowledgement Statement

By Nicholas Gunn

This past Thursday, November 10, 2022, Andrews University hosted a forum dedicated to Native American history in light of November being Native American Heritage Month. The University invited members of the Pokagon Band of the Potowatomi Tribe to present information to students & faculty on the Pokagon Band.

In conclusion of the presentation, Andrews University’s Vice President of University Culture and Inclusion, Michael Nixon joined the stage to share the University’s Land Acknowledgement Statement.

Andrews University Land Acknowledgement Statement:

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It is extremely important that we recognize and acknowledge that our Berrien Springs campus sits on land that was part of a larger area here in Michigan and elsewhere that was seized from land owned by the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi tribe. As is stated on the Potawatomi website, “Each indigenous nation has its own creation story.” This land seizure was driven by the 1833 Treaty of Chicago, which established the conditions for the removal of the Potawatomi from the Great Lakes area. When Michigan became a state in 1837, more pressure was put on the Potawatomi to move west. The hazardous trip killed one out of every ten people of the approximately 500 Potawatomi involved. As news of the terrible trip spread, some bands, consisting of small groups of families, fled to northern Michigan and Canada. Some also tried to take refuge in the forests and swamps of southwestern Michigan. The U.S. government sent soldiers to round up any of the Potawatomi they could find and would then move them at gunpoint to reservations in the west. This forced removal is now called the Potawatomi Trail of Death, similar to the more familiar Cherokee Trail of Tears. However, a small group of Neshnabek (meaning “original” or “true people”), with Leopold Pokagon as one of their leaders, earned the right to remain in their original homeland, in part because they had demonstrated a strong attachment to Catholicism. It is the descendants of that small group who constitute the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi. This was a sad extension of the deeply harmful effects of what has become known as the “Doctrine of Discovery,” which established a spiritual, political and legal justification for colonization and seizure of land not inhabited by Christians.

In a later statement the University released, “Andrews University is grateful for the partnership of our local Pokagon Band of Potawatomi tribe who assisted us in finalizing our land acknowledgement statement. While our acknowledgement is symbolic in nature, we think that shedding light on and speaking the truth has power. Coming from a faith tradition that values and prioritizes seeking and speaking truth, we can see no better way to honor the legacy of the Potawatomi people than to shed light on this painful chapter of our collective history. It is our hope that we will continue to partner with them as we seek to chart a better path forward for our collective community.”

After reaching out to the Pokagon Band of the Potowatomi Tribe for a statement I was told “Tribal Council has it on their agenda for discussion on Monday, November 21.”

To view the Andrews University Land Acknowledgement Statement and more visit Andrews.edu