Friday, March 23, 2012

Native Equality

Some interesting news from my old home town in Michigan:

HARBOR SPRINGS — The Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians could become the first tribe in Michigan to legalize same-sex marriages, if a constitutional amendment being considered by its tribal council is passed.

While same-sex partnerships are not legal in Michigan, the tribe could allow such partnerships because of its status as a sovereign nation. The majority of the tribe’s 4,000 citizens live in the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan.

“For me, it is about equal rights for all,” said Annette VanDeCar, 37, a tribal member from Petoskey. VanDeCar and fellow tribal member Denise Petoskey, voicing their opinion as advocates, authored a letter urging the Odawa tribal council to take up an amendment to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. “It’s wrong to discriminate against any group of people. We’re not asking for special treatment or special rights; We’re asking for equal rights,” VanDeCar said.

The Federal government has placed Native American marriage provisions under tribal jurisdiction. However, some tribes opt to follow state guidelines, such as the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians who have elected to follow the laws of the state of Michigan regarding marriage.

Only two Native American tribes in the United States recognize same-sex unions as legal.

I spent a number of years in that part of Michigan — the “tip of the mitt” — and I met and worked with a number of tribe members. I’m really happy for them that they are considering this step. It would be, as is so often the case, that the people who think they are so smart and so much more “civilized” can learn a lot from the people who really know what community and unity is:

Being Odawa Is All About Freedom

The freedom to be a part of a people who, with integrity and pride, still have and speak our own language. The freedom to share in common with all other Odawak the customs, culture and spirituality of our ancestors. The freedom we have today we will bring to the future through unity, education, justice, communication and planning. We will reach out to the next seven generations by holding to cultural values of Wisdom, Love, Respect, Bravery, Honesty, Humility and Truth. We will utilize our tribal assets to provide the necessary tools to become successful, hard-working community members who proudly represent our culture. With these values we will move the tribe forward.