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Michigan to co-manage Sanilac Petroglyphs Historic State Park with Saginaw-Chippewa Indian Tribe

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Courtesy of Michigan DNR
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Pictured left to right: Shannon Martin, director of Ziibiwing, Sandra Clark, director of the Michigan History Center, Tribal Chief Ron Ekdahl and Sarah Hegyi, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer

For the first time a federally recognized Indian tribe will co-manage a Michigan state park.

The Saginaw-Chippewa tribe signed an agreement on Monday to co-manage the Sanilac Petroglyphs Historic State Park with the Michigan Department of Resources.

The petroglyphs were carved into stone sometime within the last 1,400 years and are a sacred site for Anishinabe.

Erik Rodriguez is a spokesperson for the Saginaw-Chippewa Indian Tribe.

“This was one of the first things that shows our ancestors were here in this region, how they communicated with each other, and what they left behind for us,” he said.

Rodriguez said in the past, the tribe was consulted about the park but co-management will give them a “seat at the table” when it comes to making decisions about the petroglyphs and the park.

“Now the state is willing to say ‘we’re working alongside the tribe’ in making this park the best experience for all visitors and really have the true history told by those original inhabitants ancestors as we continue to move forward,’” he said.

Rodriguez said he hopes the co-management plan sets the standard for how the state handles other culturally significant tribal landmarks in the future.

Bonnie Ekdahl, the former Director for the Ziibiwing Center in Mount Pleasant, said the agreement to co-manage “marks an important step of acknowledgement and inclusion of the tribe.”

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Credit Courtesy of Michigan DNR
Sanilac Petroglyphs carving example

Director of the Michigan History Center Sandra Clark said co-management represents a whole new paradigm for the state.

“It is a big step to say we aren’t just consulting on this, we’re not just asking your opinion, we are agreeing that we won’t do things that aren’t in alignment with tribal beliefs and tribal practices,” she said.

“These carvings are very unusual for Michigan. There are a lot out in the Southwest but not here. It is extraordinarily important that we look at them through the eyes of the cultures that created them as well as through the eyes of the archeologists who studied them.”