ALPENA — About 20 people attended a virtual presentation at the Alpena Public Library on Thursday led by an official from the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture and Lifeways who discussed the effects of colonization on Native American culture.
The presentation was part of a Native American Heritage Month program hosted by the library that looks into Indigenous history in Northeast Michigan and other parts of the state.
Anita Heard, research center coordinator at the Ziibiwing Center, displayed via Zoom a 27-slide presentation that looked at the different aspects of colonization and how it affected the Anishinabek.
“Treaties were made between the U.S. government and the Anishinabek,” Heard said on the Zoom call. “There were language barriers and interpreters were usually not good. Sometimes, the people would give the Anishinabek large quantities of liquor before making the treaties.”
She went on to talk about how U.S. policies encouraged Indigenous people to adopt Christianity. Missionaries would also convince Anishinabek to convert and also said that the government’s actions were “sanctioned by God.”
Heard said that Native American people could not practice their religions until 1978.
“There are still people that remember running away when a car was passing by when they were practicing,” Heard said.
European disease, land loss, boarding schools, and more resulted in the loss of lives, culture, language, and pride for Indigenous people.
“The boarding schools for American Indian children were run like military camps,” Heard said. “Their goal was to ‘kill the Indian, save the man,’ which meant taking out what people thought was savage and inferior culture.”
The library has a micro-exhibit on its first floor of a black ash basket weaving process, an Indigenous tradition passed down through generations. The mico-exhibit runs until Dec. 1.