The Lansing area has a long and deep history of use by Native communities in the Great Lakes. While there were only a few permanent habitations in the area, it was well known as a point of transit and a place to gather resources.
There were numerous trials that ran through the area which would later become two of the major highway systems in the state, Grand River (I-96) and 1-27. It is also the place where the Grand River and the Red Cedar River merge. The Grand River is one of the largest rivers in Lower Michigan. At its head waters in Washtenaw County it connects to the Huron River over a short portage creating an East West water route that allows one to travel from Lake Michigan to Lake Erie. This area was a shared space used by Three Fires Anishinaabeg peoples that was eventually ceded to the United States in two separate treaties in 1807 and 1821. Anishinaabeg continued to use the area even after the Indian Removal Act of the 1830’s.
During the 1930’s and 40’s, Native people came to Lansing for a variety of reasons. As the Capital of the State it became the focal point of Government Negotiations between tribal communities and the State as they fought for federal recognition and the recognition of their treaty rights. Native people also came here to work and to go to School at Michigan State University. Thus Lansing became once again a place to make a living and a hub for the movements of Native people as they transitioned between different urban areas and communities. Through these interactions and experiences there is a rich collection of oral histories, stories and other materials that are either unknown or underutilized by many scholars. There is also a common misconception among many that urban Native communities have lost touch with their language, Cultures and Traditions. Urban areas such as Lansing have become places where they are both alive and thriving. However as we continue to loose fluent speakers of Anishinaabemowin there is little time left to record their stories and preserve the language for future generations.
Nikwejong is digital repository dedicating to recording and presenting the history of the Lansing MI, Native American community. Elders from the community call this place Nkwejong (where the rivers meet). The Lansing community has a large number of fluent-speakers. Many of the stories on the site are from these elders and their experiences coming here to work and live. It will also highlight the importance of Anishinaabemowin in the community and the traditional knowledge many of these elders have to pass on. This site is designed to be a place where these stories can be preserved and accessed by the Lansing Anishinaabeg community and as a resource for educators working with Native youth. This site is an extension of my own dissertation work and the recordings I will make with the local community. My dissertation research examines the role of language and linguistic practices in marking Lansing and other urban areas as Native spaces. It includes photographs from the Lansing School districts Indian Education Program from its beginnings in the late 1970’s and early 80’s through today and the stories of the youth who participated in it. My target audience is the Lansing Native community however I also see it being an important resource for researches working on urban Native populations and Indigenous transnational migration, Native labor history, Language and cultural revitalization and traditional knowledge preservation.