The department of English Language and Literature, like the University of Michigan, acknowledges the university’s origins in a land grant from the Anishinaabe (including Odawa, Ojibwe, and Bodéwadmi) and Wyandot, and we acknowledge that our university stands, like almost all property in the United States, on lands obtained, generally in unconscionable ways, from indigenous peoples.
We further acknowledge that this department focuses on English, a language brought by colonizers to North America and used to overshadow or eclipse hundreds of Native American languages, including Anishinaabemowin, the language of the Great Lakes spoken by the Chippewa/Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi tribes. Anishinaabemowin has a long, resilient tradition and has gifted the English language many words–including Michigan, meaning “great water.” Yet like other ancient indigenous languages, it has been threatened to near extinction for 150 years because of English-only schools and policies, including Native American Boarding Schools controlled by the U.S. federal government in the state of Michigan. These and other practices that evoke the false idea that English is a superior language are not only harmful to the speakers of other languages but they also rob indigenous and non-indigenous people of widespread learning and use of Anishinaabemowin and other languages.
Acknowledging this land and language history does not change the past; however, through scholarship and pedagogy, we work to create a future in which the past is thoroughly understood and the present supports human flourishing and linguistic justice while enacting an ethic of care and compassion.