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Epic Issues at Stake in Saginaw Chippewa vs. State of Michigan Suit

Expert Witnesses Lined Up to Present Testimony About Ancient Treaties, Land

August 20, 2006       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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Head Veteran George Martin (left) and Tribal Chief Fred Cantu (right) helped to open the 22nd Annual Saginaw Chippewa Powwow in a traditional way. The Powwow took place from Friday, Aug. 4 through Sunday, Aug. 6th, and was a great success.
U. S. Attorney General Office

An old-fashioned courtroom shootout is shaping up in U.S. Federal District Court in Bay City.

Opposing sides are the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe vs. Gov. Jennifer Granholm and the State of Michigan.

Waiting in the wings to perhaps shoot them both down is Uncle Sam -- the federal government.

The U.S. attorney general's office has been granted extra time by Federal Judge David M. Lawson to decide if the government wants to intervene in the case.

Long unanswered questions about Indian treaties and how the land fell into hands of white settlers will be debated in the trial.

Control of one third of Isabella County, and perhaps precedent that could affect other Indian claims in the state, hangs in the balance.

Meanwhile, the opposing sides have filed lists of expert witnesses including some of the most astute scholars on Indian history, treaties and culture in the country.

The case revolves around the Chippewa tribe's effort to have the six townships, the so-called "historic Isabella Reservation," it was originally granted in 1855 restored to tribal control.

A victory would mean that about one third of the entire Isabella County would become an Indian reservation, as it once was.

The Indians want the Federal Court to declare they are not subject to state laws in the six townships.

The Indians have named as a witness for the plaintiffs an eminent authority on ethnohistory of Native Americans, Dr. Gary Anderson, professor at the University of Oklahoma, Norman.

Dr. Anderson earned his BA from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, MA from the University of South Dakota (1972) and Ph.D. from the University of Toledo (1978).

Before coming to the University of Oklahoma, in the fall of 1991, he taught for ten years at Texas A&M University.

Dr. Anderson specializes in Ethnohistory and the history of Native Americans of the Great Plains and American Southwest. His most recent book is "The Indian's Southwest 1580-1830: Ethnogenesis and Cultural Reinvention." He also wrote a biography of Sitting Bull for the Library of American Biography Series. Earlier books include "Kinsmen of Another Kind: Dakota-White Relations in the Upper Mississippi Valley, 1650-1862" and "Little Crow, Spokesman for the Sioux," and he was editor of "Through Dakota Eyes: Narrative Accounts of the Minnesota Indian War of 1862."

Other witnesses for the Chippewa include Dr. Bruce M. White, of St. Paul, Minnesota, who will provide ethno-historical analysis of treaties between the Saginaw Chippewa and the U.S. government; Dr. J. Randolph Valentine, of the University of Wisconsin American Indian Studies Program, who will provide linguistic analysis relevant to the treaties of 1855 and 1864, with focus on "intent of the parties and understanding of the Saginaw Chippewa regarding key terms in the treaties and the general nature of the Ojibwe language and culture."

Charmaine Benz and Bonnie Ekdahl, both of the Zibiwing Cultural Center, Mt. Pleasant, will testify as to the history, culture and traditions of the Saginaw Chippewa tribe.

The state has named as witnesses Walter Fratzke and Scott Darragh, of the Michigan Department of Treasury, Maj. Anthony Gomez, and Lt. Gregory Zarotney, of the Michigan State Police, on the effect on law enforcement of declaring six townships of Isabella County "Indian Country."

Ken Darga, state demographer, will testify regarding the percentage of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe members in Isabella County; Laurie Prange-Gregory and Eric Swanson will address the percentage of land held as Indian Country; and Dr. Anthony Gulig and Dr. Theodore Karamanski will testify regarding the treaties of 1855 and 1864 and the allotment of land in the alleged historic Isabella reservation.###

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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at

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