Michigan Governor Commits to Strengthen Tribal Consultation with State Departments

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Deputy Legal Counsel Wenona Singel with Michigan tribal leaders. Native News Online photographs by Levi Rickert

Published February 22, 2019

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

LANSING, Mich. — Governor Gretchen Whitmer was sworn in last month as the new governor of Michigan. At her inauguration at the state capitol, all 12 of Michigan’s federally recognized tribes were invited to bring their tribal flags to be part of the ceremonies.

On Thursday, Gov. Whitmer addressed the United Tribes of Michigan and reaffirmed the State of Michigan’s commitment to recognize tribal sovereignty.

“We have a long history interactions with our government with tribes that is very important to our state,” said Gov. Whitmer. “We recognize Michigan tribes possess authority to exercise jurisdiction over their land. I want to reaffirm government to government relationships. I have directed each department develop a tribal consultation policy. We want to strengthen it and make it more effective.”

Gov. Whitmer spoke about the importance of the State of Michigan working together on environmental justice issues.

“We want to partner with tribes to keep the Great Lakes clean. I realize some your tribes have already been working on environmental issues,” commented the governor.

As she was introduced by United Tribes of Michigan President Aaron Payment, tribal chairperson of the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians, based at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, Payment said he was the first person to sign her petition to run for governor.

“She announced her run for governor in front of the soo locks in Sault Ste. Marie and she turned to me and said ‘I need you to sign my petition to be put on the ballot,'” Payment recalled on Thursday.

Wenona Singel

Last month, Gov. Whitmer appointed Wenona Singel (Little Traverse Bay Bands of the Odawa Indians) to serve as deputy legal counsel serving in Office of the Governor, State of Michigan. She is the first American Indian to ever hold this post in Michigan. In her role, Singel will serve as a liaison with all tribes in Michigan.

Prior to Gov. Whitmer’s speech, Singel talked about the governor’s commitment to stregthen tribal relationships through consultation.

The United Tribes of Michigan consists of the 12 federally recognized tribes in the state and is led by its Executive Director Frank Ettawageshik, a citizen of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians and former LTBB chairperson.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story inadvertently used the word “inactions,” instead of “interactions” in the sentence: “We have a long history interactions with our government with tribes that is very important to our state,” said Gov. Whitmer. 

Frank Ettawageshik and Aaron Payment


Jim WIlliams, tribal chairman of theLac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians


Gov. Whitmer with United Tribes of Michigan President Aaron Payment

Larry Romanelli, tribal ogema, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians


Michigan Indian tribal leaders

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