Skip to main content

Approach to Consultation - Living and Learning in Relationship

Wooden bowl filled with strawberries

Approach to Consultation - Living and Learning in Relationship

The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) is committed to ensuring that every learner in Michigan’s education system has an inspiring, engaging, and caring learning environment that fosters creative and critical thinkers who believe in their ability to positively influence Michigan and the world beyond. The realization of this vision requires the MDE to consult, collaborate, and form meaningful, holistic relationships with a vast network of communities throughout the State.

This need for relationship building holds particularly true when building supports for Indigenous learners and engaging with their various communities. Central to forming effective relationships in these settings is the need for all parties to understand and respect the sovereignty of the tribal nations that share geography with the state of Michigan, collectively known as the People of the Three Fires, or the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi. The place-based knowledge contained within the ancestral lands upon which the People of the Three Fires live remains the core from which traditional teachings and beliefs have always existed. Historically, this deeply ingrained wisdom has been underappreciated and underutilized when designing tribal consultation and developing resources to support the education of Indigenous learners.

In recognition of these understandings, the MDE, through its Indigenous Education Initiative, adopts a relational approach to consultation and engagement with the tribal nations in Michigan. Rather than driving policy from the need to comply with federal and state requirements, the Indigenous Education Initiative seeks to ensure inclusive and meaningful collaboration between the MDE and the tribal nations throughout Michigan as well as other organizations supporting Indigenous Peoples living on lands outside of those currently governed and serviced by the tribal nations. To be clear, this approach is not new to Indigenous communities. The consultation process utilized is an application of traditional teachings and the recognition of an Indigenous way of being and learning.

The MDE Indigenous Education Initiative believes consultation is a process, not an event, based on established relationships and shared priorities. It is the understanding that an inclusionary approach utilizing a historic indigenous knowledge base for consultation is beneficial and respectful to the federally recognized tribes of Michigan. This approach also greatly expands the understanding of state institutions and representatives that seek to work directly with tribes.

The collaboration with Indigenous communities in Michigan is supported by the Initiative’s value and incorporation of Indigenous-based knowledge systems together with other knowledge systems. Adopting an Indigenous framework of consultation demonstrates MDE’s commitment to co-existing in relationship with the tribes. As a result of embracing this process, the MDE stands to strengthen and maintain the learning stance necessary to support the educational outcomes of Indigenous learners in Michigan.