A tradition never broken

The Potawatomi chief Metea was one of the Native Americans who signed the 1817 Treaty of Fort Meigs. (Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library)

When dozens of Native Americans gathered along the Maumee River in northwest Ohio in 1817 to sign a treaty brokered by territorial governor Lewis Cass, their signatures — simple “X” marks, as they were — set into motion the richest custom at the University of Michigan. By making a gift of land to the fledgling “University of Michigania” in Detroit, the Indians were the first benefactors, beginning a practice that stretches deeper into the institution’s past than the practice of teaching, the sharing of a library, or the granting of diplomas. For nearly two centuries, philanthropy has shaped the university with gifts of land, artwork, scientific specimens, books and cash.

—  From “A Tradition Never Broken,” by Kim Clarke, presented at the University of Michigan Heritage Project website, celebrating U-M’s 2017 bicentennial.


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