Indian commission's demise 

Native Americans from across Michigan rallied in Lansing last week in an unsuccessful attempt to halt Gov. John Engler’s elimination of the state’s Indian Affairs Commission.

An executive order signed by Engler abolished the 34-year-old commission Monday, Oct. 18, transferring its responsibilities to the Department of Civil Rights.

The commission investigated problems common to the state’s Indians, including employment, civil rights, housing, health and education. Most of its focus was directed toward the needs of nonreservation urban and rural natives, estimated to be 87 percent of the Native American population of Michigan.

By law, the Legislature had 60 days to overturn the executive order Engler issued in late August. Thirty state representatives introduced a resolution in September opposing the order, but the resolution languished in the committee on House Oversight and Operations. The deadline to overturn Engler’s action was Monday.

"It’s just sitting there. The chair doesn’t want to schedule a hearing," Rep. Lynne Martinez, D-Lansing, told the protesters. "They’re not in the business of embarrassing the governor."

Susan Shaefer, Engler’s deputy press secretary, said the governor’s action was justified because of the commission’s lack of activity over the past few years. She said that no Indian programs will be eliminated, and that the state’s American Indians will be better served as a result of the change.

"This will allow the Native Americans more direct access to the governor himself without the bureaucratic red tape," said Shaefer.

Critics of Engler’s action say abolition of the commission will make it more difficult for Native Americans living off reservations to obtain help from the state.

"Engler doesn’t understand the issues that Indians face living off the reservation," said Rep. Julie Dennis, D-Muskegon. "He thinks the casinos are the answer and they’re not. The Indians of Michigan are at the mercy of the governor, and with this executive order he shows he has no interest in the health or well-being of the Indians."

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.

Read the Digital Print Issue

March 3, 2021

View more issues

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit

© 2021 Detroit Metro Times - Contact Us

Website powered by Foundation