History of the Land

History of the Land Location of Kalamazoo College

The Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership acknowledges that our building resides on land belonging to the Three Fires Confederacy: the Ojibwe, the Odawa, and the Potawatomi. In the early 1820s, the U.S. government sought the first land cessions from the Native people of southwest Michigan, and the 1821 Treaty of Chicago, negotiated by Territorial Governor Lewis Cass and leaders of the Potawatomi, Odawa, and Ojibwe, resulted in the cession of most land south of the Grand River. Through the negotiations, five reservations were established, including a three-mile square area in what is now Kalamazoo (and upon which Kalamazoo College is situated) for Match-e-be-nash-she-wish and his band of Potawatomi.

In six short years, the 1827 Treaty of St. Joseph did away with four of the five reservations as the federal government sought to consolidate the Potawatomi “at a point removed from the road leading from Detroit to Chicago, and as far as practicable from the settlements of the Whites.” Among the reservations ceded were those at Ke-kalamazoo and Prairie Ronde (Schoolcraft), and the remaining Nottawaseppe reservation (near Athens) was enlarged to accommodate the displaced Potawatomi. This consolidation was seen by the American negotiators as a precursor to removal. The Potawatomi people did not leave Kalamazoo, however, at least not right away, and descendants of the Match-e-be-nash-she-wish band, the Gun Lake Band of Potawatomi, tell us they were never compensated for the loss of their reserve in Kalamazoo.

Through the 1833 Treaty of Chicago, the U.S. government demanded the remaining Potawatomi reserves and stipulated that the Potawatomi people of Michigan were to be removed to a territory west of the Mississippi after three years. Neither Match-e-be-nash-she-wish nor his son Penasee signed the 1833 Treaty of Chicago.

The ACSJL hopes this acknowledgment can serve to continually remind us of this history and honor this land and the people to whom it belongs.