Being Indian Today: A View from the Inside

Martin Reinhardt speaks on "Being Indian Today."
Martin Reinhardt speaks on "Being Indian Today."

The room was packed, the organizers grabbing more chairs as people kept piling in. The speaker stood in the front of the room, wearing a red ribbon shirt made by one of his tribal leaders, and the screen read “Being Indian Today.” He welcomed everyone in his Native language — Anishinaabemowin — and began his presentation.

Martin Reinhardt is an Anishinaabe Ojibway citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians from Michigan. He is an associate professor of Native-American studies at Northern Michigan University as well as a co-owner and education division director for First Nations, LLC, where he specializes in American Indian education.

Ojibway Identity

Reinhardt spoke about being Indian in today’s society and talked about “passing.” His message shared his own personal experiences and what he has learned so far. For example, he spoke about how growing up with mixed Catholic and Anishinaabe traditions, serving in the military and then learning more about his Ojibway identity influenced his faith now. He also mentioned that keeping his Native language alive is a constant, but important, struggle.

Reinhardt encouraged Michigan Tech and other universities to reach out to the Native American community. “The relationship between recruitment and retention of Native American students and the presence of Native American faculty on campus is well documented,” he said. “There is no doubt that Native American faculty can play a key positive role in transforming the curriculum and campus climate at our universities. It is a major positive first step and one that will usher in many more changes as a result.”

After the event, he said, “I hope that folks got a sense of the complexities of Indian identity, the urgency in addressing many of the issues that Indian people face today.”

Native American Heritage Month

This was a Native American Heritage Month Event sponsored by the Center for Diversity and Inclusion’s Heritage Programming Committee, Visiting Women Minority Lecture Series and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES). This year’s theme, which students conceptualized, was “Masks: Who I am and Who I Have to Be.”

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, the University offers more than 125 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.