It's interesting to see how Indigenous and Native culture is taught in schools around the country. When I attended middle school in Oklahoma, it was required. Granted, a lot of it was pretty "white-washed" about WHY the Indigenous peoples had been moved there. BUT, we learned about the individual tribe cultures so we could better respect them in our communities.

Michigan has a STRONG history with indigenous tribes as well.  But how much do you know about them? And would adding it to school curriculum be helpful?

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The Native Tribes of Michigan

Full disclosure, in the process of writing this article, I learned that there are actually 12 federally recognized tribes in the state of Michigan, despite only ever hearing of the main five: The Odawa, Ojibwe, and Potawatomi are (most well known, and part of the "Three Fires," who often traded and worked together), the Miami, and the Algonquin.

These tribes occupied what would become Michigan for thousands of years before the area was settled by European immigrants.

But it's 2023, and many of these tribes have either been completely displaced, or only exist in very small numbers on their original home reservations. It's a shame, because we could learn so much about the land, and the history of the area from these native people. But, a good alternative would be in the classroom.

But Michigan doesn't require indigenous learning courses.

Wikipedia - Ojibwe chiefs in the 19th Century.
Wikipedia - Ojibwe chiefs in the 19th Century.

What States Have Required Indigenous Studies Courses?

Other states do have it as required education. As I mentioned above, Oklahoma requires it. We can split hairs as to how DETAILED that education really is, but regardless, many tribes from the east and north of the United States were displaced by a growing European immigrant population, and moved to Oklahoma.

Other states like Idaho, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Wisconsin, also require a course in Native American studies, often more closely associated with the tribes in their states.


Why doesn't Michigan require it?

There really isn't a good answer for that. Programs around the state exist to help educate the public, but only some school districts offer any kind of Indigenous courses. Kalamazoo is one of the districts that does NOT require it. However, Portage does offer the course.

Just My Opinion: It should be a required course in the entire country. They were here first, so we should learn about who was here before us, and where they are now.

Of course, some areas in the country have deeper roots tied to Native tribes - Michigan being one of them. So maybe a regional touch on what should be a National discussion of our Native inhabitants of the Americas?

It's an interesting debate for sure, and at the moment, there's not talk of this becoming a State-wide mandate. But it should probably at least be considered.

Michigan Counties with Made Up Indigenous Names

Henry Schoolcraft named more than half the counties in Michigan, some of which were completely made up Indigenous words that he made up from pieces of the native languages. And some of those county names still exist today.