By Jacqueline Schram, director of Public Affairs and special assistant for Native American Affairs
During National Native American Heritage Month this past November, a special dedication took place in the heart of Marquette’s campus. All 12 tribal flags of the Great Lakes Intertribal Council (GLITC) were officially unfurled in the AMU, Room 157.
Acknowledging the government to government status inherent to all tribal nations, President Michael R. Lovell wrote a letter to each tribal chair or president of GLITC to ask if the university could host their flags. The response was resoundingly supportive.
Like the American flag, these tribal flags are revered and deeply storied. Integral connections to landscape and people are relayed in the detailed iconography that is as diverse as the nations it represents. Each flag is a visual reminder that Indigenous people are still here. The banner just inside the doorway captures the spirit of the place with the words “Tribute to Survival.”
Ensuring these flags were at “home” and not entombed, the room had to acknowledge place. The windows are wrapped with birch trees set amongst the four seasons and the celestial night sky. All these elements served both as the lifeblood and natural compass for our Great Lakes Indigenous peoples.
The door is reserved for the special recognition of Marquette University’s eagle staff. Indigenous protocol calls for the sacred staff to precede flags in any procession and its likeness does so here with prominence. Flanking its image is the new official name of AMU 157. After thoughtful guidance from Marquette University’s Council on Native American Affairs and Indigenous language speakers, “Maamawi Abiwin,” or the coming together room in Anishinaabemowin, the Ojibwe language, revealed itself.
This coming together room is an honorable reference to the tribal flags that now “fly” here — the people that made it happen and to all those who will gather in the space to pursue Marquette’s Mission of being the difference.
Let these flags serve as a reminder of whose original lands we are on and the historic commitments we must try to honor together.