The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Stolen Land

Feb 15, 2021

The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians who live near Traverse City, have been in the news in Michigan.

As reported in the Traverse City Record Eagle, the Grand Traverse Band are in the process of filing a lawsuit against the U.S. government regarding thousands of acres of reservation land that was stolen from them. Their case is based on the 5th Amendment to the Constitution, “property [shall not] be taken for public use, without just compensation.” The land was awarded to the Ottawa and Chippewa Nations in 1855 by the Treaty of Detroit.

Tribal citizens are seeking compensation based on the land’s worth when it was taken, plus interest. They assure current landholders that in no way are they trying to take back the land. In fact, they have been organizing support for their case with all the local communities where current landholders live.

It has been an interesting campaign. Many municipalities have now given their support to the stolen land case: Suttons Bay Township, Centerville Township, and Leelanau County.

After a series of many required legal steps, in the end, an act of Congress will be needed for compensation to be granted for the theft.

To this day, 25% of Native Americans live below the poverty level. This rate of poverty is similar to the U.S. poverty rate for black, Hispanic and rural white populations of working people. To support the fight for justice by the Grand Traverse Band makes sense.

A current tribal elder describes how community organizing around this project has given all who have become involved a “breadth of knowledge. It really sheds light on history that isn’t well known and it really speaks to what happened throughout this country. It’s just an example of how common it was not to honor treaties.”

Said another tribal elder, “What we do today matters. So I hope we’re able to continue what our past leaders started and build for the future so that future generations won’t have to go without... And I hope our surrounding people, friends, our neighbors will support us and help us, and will finally see us.”