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Detroit Police Break Up Native American Ceremony Saying 'Sovereign Stuff Is Not Valid'

Photo: ehrlif / Shutterstock
Detroit police car

To say that the Native American people have historically been abused by the authorities of the United States would be an understatement.

And though we might hope times are changing, they're not changing quick enough based on a recent incident experienced by Michigan-based Native American event organizers who had a less than respectful interaction with the Detroit Police Department.

A Detroit Police Department shut down Native American sugarbush ceremony despite permits.

In more modern times relations have improved and the United States has made decisions to try and protect the remaining native American tribes and cultures.

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However, as the organizers of the sugarbush ceremony set to kick off the third annual tapping season in Michigan found out, Native Americans still sometimes find themselves at odds with authorities.

The sugarbush ceremony is held as part of the Detroit Sugarbush Project.

The event is held in order to teach Detroiters to tap and make maple syrup as well as to pass along other traditions and knowledge.

The ceremony has gone mostly undisturbed for the last three years in which Detroiters tap trees and boil sap over a fire. The city of Detroit had even officially recognized and permitted the event by issuing a Memorandum of Understanding.

The organizers of the event also received a burn permit so that they could perform the ceremony, so when they saw a police helicopter and flashing lights, participants thought that it was just someone being pulled over.

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When Antonio Cosme, one of the event organizers, went to investigate, he found that the police were, in fact, there to shut down the sugarbush ceremony.

While Cosme tried to explain that they had the appropriate permissions from the city of Detroit, six more police officers appeared and ordered the participants at the event to douse all of their fires and to disperse in two minutes.

In a video of the event, one of the officers can be heard saying, “The sovereign stuff is not valid.”

Several videos have been making the rounds online of the police officers breaking up the event.

Another organizer of the sugarbush ceremony named Rosebud Bear-Schneider, said of the officers that were ordering them to disperse, “We tried to tell them about our sovereignty. They didn't want to hear anything of it.”

Right as Cosme had received permission to resume the event from the first police officers, he saw that people were quickly extinguishing fires and packing up on the orders of the second group of officers.

The Detroit Police Department has since issued an apology.

DPD has acknowledged the miscommunication between law enforcement and issued an apology, stating, “On behalf of the Detroit Police Department, we would like to apologize for the interruption of a sacred ceremony… we can always do better to address these types of incidents.”

The Detroit Police Department has acknowledged that they came up short in this interaction with the sugarbush ceremony and will hopefully make appropriate corrections moving forward.

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Dan O'Reilly is a writer who covers news, politics, and social justice. Follow him on Twitter.

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