Schmidt bill to promote Native American heritage approved by Senate

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LANSING, Mich. — The state Senate unanimously approved legislation on Tuesday to recognize with official signage places throughout the state that are significant to the history of Native Americans, including along trails that served as a foundation for many state roadways.

Numerous trails, including the Grand River Trail between Detroit and Grand Rapids; the trail from Toledo, passing through Saginaw to Mackinac; and the St. Joseph Trail out of Detroit, have all contributed to the formation of Michigan’s current highway system.

“This important legislation would help preserve and promote Native American heritage in Michigan,” said Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City. “The bill is part of our continued efforts to build and maintain a lasting relationship with the twelve Native American tribes that reside within Michigan’s borders.”

Senate Bill 523 amends the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act to require a general recognition effort, and allows the state Department of Natural Resources to provide signage and recognition of places along trails in the Pure Michigan Trails network.

Under the bill, the DNR would collaborate with tribal governments, educators, universities, the state Department of Transportation, the Michigan Historical Commission, the council for the arts and cultural affairs, Travel Michigan, the state historic preservation office, state archaeologist, and historical societies to develop and implement a plan to preserve Native American history in the state.

The Senate previously adopted Senate Resolution 93, establishing the fourth Friday in September as Michigan Indian Day. It recognizes the shared history between Michiganders and the peoples of the 12 federally recognized tribes, and the partnership established in a government-to-government accord that helped to enhance and improve communication, foster respect for sovereign status, and facilitate the resolution of potentially contentious issues.

SB 523 now goes to the state House of Representatives for consideration.