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MLive, History and the Exclusion of Indigenous Reality

December 16, 2016

On Wednesday, December 14, MLive thought it would provide a short history lesson on something that took place 180 years ago.

Apparently, people from Ohio and delegates from the territory that would become Michigan met in Ann Arbor to work out a land deal.screen-shot-2016-12-15-at-2-33-44-pm

Ohio ended up getting what was called the Toledo Strip, while Michigan ended up getting the Upper Peninsula.

This was not in an MLive news stories, but one of those photo galleries with brief captions. This photo gallery consists of 19 slides. In the first 6 slides they share some of this brief history between Ohio and Michigan. However, there was one glaring omission, the MLive piece never mentions that Indigenous people on the land that was “in dispute.”


The reality is that thousands of indigenous people lived in what is now called Michigan prior to the European invasion. Most in these native communities experienced displacement by force, religious colonization, the flooding of their communities with alcohol and displacement through legal maneuvers known as treaties. There were numerous treaties that resulted in the takeover of Native land by settler colonialists throughout what is now called Michigan (see map on the right), but settler colonialists have a long history of violation of those treaties. So, to exclude any conversation or historical context about indigenous people is just another way of perpetuating the settler colonial narrative.

There is one mention of Native Americans in frame 16 of this photo gallery. The caption here read: Thanks to the rich history and immigration brought on by the mining boom years, the U.P. is also a cultural melting pot featuring Native Americans, Finns, Swedes, Italians, French Canadians and others.

Such a reference makes it sound like Native Americans just happen to come to the U.P., like all the other ethnic groups mentioned.screen-shot-2016-12-15-at-2-34-29-pm

There are also a few other slides in the gallery that are instructive in terms of how it plays into the Settler Colonial narrative.

In frame number 7 we see a group of men who worked in the mines in the U.P. The caption refers to “Michigan striking it rich,” when talking about the level of mining taking place in the U.P. First, of all, Michigan didn’t strike it rich. Those who owned the mine struck it rich. In addition, the mines have contributed and continue to contributed to the contamination of water and soil in the U.P, which has disproportionately impact indigenous communities. (See Al Gedicks book, The New Resource Wars.)

screen-shot-2016-12-15-at-2-34-49-pmIn frame 8 of the photo gallery, there is this picture of men standing on an old growth tree that was cut down. The caption reads: All that supposedly useless wilderness also turned out to be an important source of timber for the logging boom.

First, there wasn’t a logging boom, there were huge profits by logging companies, some of which were owned (in part) by Grand Rapids Furniture Barons who used the wood for furniture.Secondly, the amount of timber that was logged during the 19th century was astronomical, which is why there are essentially no old growth areas left in the U.P.

The rest of the photos in the gallery primarily focus on the majestic beauty of the Upper Peninsula. While the UP is beautiful and often breathtaking, the exclusion of indigenous history is unacceptable. I mean, one of the pictures even includes Tahquamenon Falls. The photo refers to is as a landmark, but fails to mention the name of the falls is Anishinaabe.

This MLive photo gallery that seeks to provide a history lesson, is just one example of how White Supremacy is practiced and why Settler Colonialism continues.

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