2017-10-05 / Local News

Indigenous peoples day well received by Tribal Council

By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff


OFFICIALS OF the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians pose with representatives of the Leelanau County government to accept a resolution designating Oct. 1 of each year as Indigenous Peoples Day in Leelanau County. Pictured are, from left, County Administrator Chet Janik, Tribal Councilors Mark Wilson and Tom Shomin, County Commissioner Ty Wessell, Tribal Councilor Kimberly Vargo, County Board Chairman Will Bunek, Tribal Chairman Sam McClellan, Tribal Manager Mary Pelcher, and Tribal Councilors Percy Bird and David Arroyo. OFFICIALS OF the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians pose with representatives of the Leelanau County government to accept a resolution designating Oct. 1 of each year as Indigenous Peoples Day in Leelanau County. Pictured are, from left, County Administrator Chet Janik, Tribal Councilors Mark Wilson and Tom Shomin, County Commissioner Ty Wessell, Tribal Councilor Kimberly Vargo, County Board Chairman Will Bunek, Tribal Chairman Sam McClellan, Tribal Manager Mary Pelcher, and Tribal Councilors Percy Bird and David Arroyo. The Tribal Council of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians last week accepted a resolution from the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners designating Oct. 1 of each year as Indigenous Peoples Day in Leelanau County.

Tribal members had requested that a day to honor Native Americans be observed on the same date as Columbus Day, the second Monday of each October.

However, county commissioners expressed concern that holding both observances on the same day might result in confusion and a perception that Indigenous Peoples Day was a protest against Columbus Day. Several commissioners said they believed Native Americans should have their own, special day.

By all accounts, a resolution presented by County Board Chairman and District No. 3 Commissioner Will Bunek to Tribal Chairman Thurlow “Sam” McClellan at a Tribal Council Special Session last week was well received.

Bunek was accompanied to the Sept. 27 meeting by County Administrator Chet Janik and District No. 4 Commissioner Ty Wessell, who had originally proposed that the County Board adopt the resolution.

A vote by the County Board on Sept. 19 to designate each Oct. 1 as Indigenous Peoples Day was 5-2 with the board’s two Democrats, Wessell and District No. 5 Commissioner Patricia Soutas-Little opposed. Wessell said he felt it might do more harm than good for relations with the tribe if the date tribal members requested was not honored.

That proved not to be the case. Tribal Councilors David Arroyo and Mark Wilson told the Enterprise following the Sept. 29 Tribal Council meeting that they were gratified the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners had opted to adopt an Indigenous Peoples Day resolution.

In addition to accepting the resolution, Tribal Chairman McClellan also accepted a “Mid-Michigan Honor Flight” jacket and a letter of thanks to the Tribal Council from County Board Chairman Bunek.

Earlier this year, the tribe paid out $5,000 of its semi-annual casino revenue sharing obligation to the county to support the Honor Flight program for veterans. The payment was funneled through Leelanau County to help sponsor a plane trip by mostly World War II veterans to visit memorial sites in Washington, D.C. Five veterans with ties to Leelanau were among the honored guests.

Following the Tribal Council meeting, Janik, a former public school superintendent, sent an email to each of the school superintendents in Leelanau County urging them to share the Indigenous Peoples Day resolution with teachers and staff and “hopefully create a greater awareness of this special event in Leelanau County.”

Janik also forwarded school superintendents a brief PowerPoint presentation created by the Rev. Robin Carden of Suttons Bay explaining the meaning of Indigenous Peoples Day.

Tribal members held their annual Natural Resources Fair and Feast in Peshawbestown on Saturday and several of them were asked whether they knew that the next day, Sunday, Oct. 1, had been designated Indigenous Peoples Day in Leelanau County. None did.

“I wasn’t aware tomorrow was anything special,” said Desmond Berry, head of the tribe’s Natural Resources Department.

The Enterprise could uncover no information indicating that Indigenous Peoples Day was celebrated anywhere in the county. Columbus Day is Monday, so most Federal offices and some other offices may be closed. However, Columbus Day is not observed by the Leelanau County government.

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