November is Native American Heritage Month, a time to celebrate the history, tradition and contributions indigenous people and tribes have on Michigan then and today. Despite being the first to have settled in Michigan, not much of their history is known in the mainstream or taught in schools.   

Today, there are efforts in Detroit to maintain a connection to the land and to keep indigenous traditions alive, such as the Detroit Sugarbush Project, a local group who are trying to bring the Native American tradition of making maple syrup to more people. Other efforts, like Keep Growing Detroit, have found success on a more individualized scale. The nonprofit, whose mission is to help Detroiters grow fruits and vegetables in their communities, supports about 2,300 gardens across the city. 

Detroit Sugarbush Project's Antonio Cosme makes maple syrup

Detroit Sugarbush Project’s Antonio Cosme works through the process of making maple syrup after collecting sap from the maple trees in Detroit’s Rouge Park. | Photo by One Detroit

Before colonialism, Michigan was home to thriving indigenous populations, like the Anishnaabek, which included people of the Ojibwe, Odawa and Potawatomi tribes, also known as the Three Fires. Translated to “first people,” they were the first indigenous people to settle in the Great Lakes region. Iroquois people and people of the Huron-Wendat tribe also shared the region with the Anishnaabek tribes. 

In recognition of Native American Heritage Month in November, One Detroit contributor Bryce Huffman sat down with Antonio Cosme, an organizer with the Detroit Sugarbush Project and Keep Growing Detroit Co-Director of Education and Engagement Rosebud Bear Schneider to learn about Michigan’s indigenous history and efforts to preserve it. 

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