‘Rock Your Mocs’ celebrates Native American Heritage Month at Michigan History Center

Three-part event series explores 21st-century Native perspectives in Michigan.
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MHC News

Nov. 9, 2016   

Contact: Sara Gross, 517-241-6852

‘Rock Your Mocs’ celebrates Native American Heritage Month at Michigan History Center

Rock Your Mocs iconThe Michigan History Center is celebrating Native American Heritage Month (also known as American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month) this November and early December with “Rock Your Mocs,” a three-part series exploring 21st-century Native perspectives in Michigan.

Funded by the Michigan Humanities Council and planned collaboratively with nearly a dozen community groups and tribal organizations throughout the state, “Rock Your Mocs” will include a film festival, a workshop and a moderated panel discussion. The “Native Treaties – Shared Rights” exhibit at the Library of Michigan will prolong its run in Lansing through the end of December to tie in with the “Rock Your Mocs” series and will have extended evening hours at each “Rock your Mocs” event.   


“The Michigan History Center is committed to sharing Native cultures through representation in our exhibits and celebrating their historical and modern-day contributions to Michigan. The first people of Michigan, called the Anishinaabek, have lived and thrived here for thousands of years,” said Michigan History Center Director Sandra Clark. “Today, there are 12 federally recognized tribes in Michigan, consisting of Ojibwe, Odawa and Potawatomi bands that have a shared background, as well as unique cultures and traditions.”

The “Rock Your Mocs” series celebrates Native heritage in Michigan by clarifying and examining the challenges and intricacies of Native life in the 21st century. Through a range of creative, casual and academic offerings, attendees will gain a deeper understanding of Native sovereignty and governance, economic development, environmental issues, education, traditions and more.

“My biggest hope is that attendees come away with a greater understanding of Native people in Michigan, both past and present,” said Eric Hemenway, director of Repatriation, Archives and Records at the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians. “Educating the public on Native populations is very important at this time. Right now, Native people are fighting many battles in their communities, from protecting natural resources to human trafficking to combating racism. These events can help others not only understand Native people, but also provide resources to help.”

Rock Your Mocs

Although this event series is a new initiative for the Michigan History Center, “Rock Your Mocs” has its own history. Rock Your Mocs Week is a worldwide Native American & Indigenous Peoples movement, founded in New Mexico, held each November to coincide with Native American Heritage Month in the United States. Rock Your Mocs Week founder Jessica Atsye hopes that this cultural empowerment initiative will “continue to reach even further worldwide and inspire cultural pride for Native Americans wherever they may be, as well as anyone who just likes to participate in a fun way of celebrating indigenous and Native American peoples and the U.S.A’s National Native American Heritage Month.” 

Event Details

The kickoff event for the “Rock Your Mocs” event series is the IndigiStory Native Film Festival, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15. This festival is part of the Dibajimooyang/IndigiStory project sponsored by the Michigan Humanities Council. This collaborative effort involving the Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan, the Native American Institute at Michigan State University and the Saginaw-Chippewa Tribal College empowers Anishinaabe filmmakers of all ages to share their stories. Attendees with their own story to tell are invited to stop by the Michigan History Center early for the IndigiStory Story Circle Workshop from 2 to 5 p.m.  

“This project is part of a larger effort to give voices to Native American people from across the state of Michigan,” said Michelle Schulte, project director for the Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan. “In this age of technology, it’s hard to get young people to value and make time for the way life ‘used to be.’ These stories can be a bridge that allows the Anishinaabe culture to move into the future. The narratives collected will share wisdom, personal modern experiences of resiliency and rising above history, and visions for the future.”

The second “Rock Your Mocs” event is Anishinaabe 101, a workshop designed to introduce attendees to the basics of Native culture in Michigan and raise awareness of contemporary issues relevant to Native communities. Scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 30, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., the workshop will be co-facilitated by representatives from the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture and Lifeways, Little River Band of Odawa Indians, Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians, and Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians. Attendees will have the opportunity to explore art and cultural objects from several Michigan tribes, observe a pre-workshop smudging ceremony, attend breakout sessions on a variety of topics, and ask questions.   

“Rock Your Mocs” concludes Thursday, Dec. 15, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. with a moderated panel discussion of Native perspectives and culture as they pertain to 21st-century Michigan. Topics include Native governance, traditions and environmental sustainability. Panel moderators will guide the discussion, but interested attendees are welcome to submit their own questions for consideration in advance of the event. Questions can be submitted via Twitter @MIHistoryCenter or on the Facebook event page for the panel, listed on the @MichiganHistoryCenter Facebook page.

All events in the “Rock Your Mocs” series are at the Michigan History Center, located at 702 W. Kalamazoo St. in Lansing, Michigan, and are free and open to the public. More information is available at www.michigan.gov/michiganhistory.  

"Native Treaties – Shared Rights" Exhibit

In addition to the events, attendees can view “Native Treaties – Shared Rights,” a traveling exhibit from the Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University. The exhibit’s host, the Library of Michigan – housed in the same building as the Michigan History Center – will stay open late Nov. 15 and 30 and Dec. 15 to extend access to this special exhibit. The exhibit also will be open during the library’s regular business hours through Dec. 29.  

“Native Treaties – Shared Rights,” also supported by the Michigan Humanities Council, defines the concept of treaties and explores their historical application relating to land, education, and hunting and fishing rights.

The Michigan History Center’s museum and archival programs foster curiosity, enjoyment and inspiration rooted in Michigan's stories. The center includes the Michigan History Museum, 10 regional museums, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve, and the Archives of Michigan. Learn more at www.michigan.gov/michiganhistory.

/Editors’ note: A “Rock Your Mocs” icon and banner graphic, as well as a flyer about the event series, are available below for download./

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.

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