(CBS DETROIT) - Oakland University established a Native American heritage to create a foundation for relations it hopes to build between its campus, its own Native and Indigenous faculty, students, and staff, as well as the inter-tribal community of Detroit.
Southeast Michigan has one of the largest urban Native American populations in the country, and because land dispossession was at the heart of colonization in America, Oakland University's designation of land for educational and cultural purposes makes actual space available to welcome Native peoples.
The Native American heritage site atwas dedicated in April 2022 in recognition of the campus Land Acknowledgement, which was also officially celebrated at that time.
The original stewards of the land on which Oakland University resides are the Anishinaabe people, who have been here since time immemorial.
With input from the inter-tribal Indigenous community of southeast Michigan, the university named the land Gidinawemaaganinaanig: Endazhigiyang ᑭᑎᓇᐧᐁᒫᑲᓂᓈᓂᒃ ᐁᓐᑕᔑᑭᔭᓐᒃ, which is Anishinaabemowin for "All Our Relations: The Place Where We All Grow."
According to Oakland, Gidinawemaaganinaanig: Endazhigiyang is, above all, an educational space. It serves as a classroom where campus members and the public can come and participate by attending workshops and discussions about Indigenous culture, lifeways, and histories. Because the heritage site is a place-making project and a classroom we invite all to come and learn and be a part of a future that is more just, equitable, and inclusive of Native voices and experiences.
Gidinawemaaganinaanig: Endazhigiyang also uniquely addresses the land dispossession associated with colonization. The Native American Student Group at OU holds its meetings here and tends to the medicine garden, and Indigenous students come here for cultural practice.
The space also serves as a classroom where classes integrating Indigenous subjects can gather to observe the land and put into practice the reciprocal relationships with non-human relatives they learn about in their readings.
NAAC co-chair Andrea Knutson takes students to the heritage site to connect them to an anti-colonial relationship with the land and to generate new research questions that only a land gift like this can pose.
It's a space for growing food and the thriving Indigenous food sovereignty movement in Metro Detroit and a space for education, as well as for inter-generational teaching and community engagement. Most indigenous-focused events that take place on the land are free and open to everyone. Allies come to learn more about Native history and culture and how to advocate for their Indigenous neighbors. Native folks come to reconnect with one another and their lifeways.
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