American Indian Heritage Month: Commemoration vs. Exploitation
Teaser Image

Great Lakes Intertribal Council

The origins of the Great Lakes Intertribal Council (GLITC) are rooted in the collective American Indian response of the early 1960s toward the federal policies of the 1950s. In 1945 the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) was founded to help American Indian groups make effective use of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. By 1960, however, the NCAI had concentrated its efforts against Congress's 1950s termination policy and the related Voluntary Relocation Program of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). In response to that policy and in collaboration with the late Sol Tax (1907–1995), then an anthropology professor at the University of Chicago, the NCAI organized a forum open to any and all American Indians in an effort to redress the intent and collective effect of these policies.

In June 1961 the American Indian Chicago Conference (AICC) was hosted on the campus of the University of Chicago, culminating with the consensual document, "The Declaration of Indian Purpose." While reflecting the moderate perspective that American Indians should work within the existing federal system, it emphatically opposed the federal policies of the 1950s, upheld sovereignty, asserted treaty rights as interpreted by Supreme Court Justice John Marshall, and spoke up on behalf of unrecognized and underserved American Indian groups. The AICC Declaration was later presented to President John F. Kennedy in a ceremony on the lawn of the White House.

Organizations such as the NCAI and the model for intertribal cooperation afforded by the AICC motivated Indian groups throughout the United States to form cooperative, regional organizations and associations to provide administrative support and to promote social, economic, and political ties. It was in the wake of the AICC that the GLITC emerged as a community action agency under the auspices of the recently established federal Office for Economic Opportunity (OEO). Still in is formative stage, the GLITC responded to the request of the OEO to serve as a vehicle for the delivery of services and programs to its member reservations and the rural Indian communities of Wisconsin.

As part of President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty, the OEO, although a new and innovative agency committed to grassroots development, found it difficult to overcome former bureaucratic tendencies. Generally speaking, however, the OEO provided the GLITC and its membership with a useful if sometimes frustrating lesson in dealing with federal agencies besides the BIA, as well as beneficial instruction in accessing sources of nongovernmental funding.

Operating under a mission statement to support its membership "in expanding sovereignty and self-determination," the GLITC now functions as a consortium of federally recognized American Indian groups that advocates for and provides services and assistance to its membership in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota. The consortium includes the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (Wisconsin), Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (Wisconsin), Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians (Wisconsin), Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (Wisconsin), Sokaogon Chippewa Community (Mole Lake, Wisconsin), St. Croix Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (Wisconsin), Forest County Potawatomi Community (Wisconsin), Oneida Nation (Wisconsin), Ho-Chunk Nation (Wisconsin), Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians (Wisconsin), Menominee Indian Tribe (Wisconsin), and the Lac Vieux Desert Tribe (Michigan).

The GLITC is administered by a board of directors composed of a respective chair for each member, along with representatives designated by each chair. The board conducts its business at regularly scheduled meetings once every other month at sites selected at previous meetings, usually held on a rotating basis at one of the membership headquarters. The day-to-day administrative and financial operations of the GLITC are conducted at the central office located in Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin, where services are also coordinated.

As the respective local governing bodies of the GLITC membership have developed effective administrative capacities and continued the push for self-determination, they have also assumed increased responsibility for the administration and delivery of services to their own communities. The role of GLITC has therefore shifted from the direct delivery of services to its membership to supplementing and assisting local governing bodies in the administration and delivery of services, including health, aging, education, and economic development, and to political action including policy advocacy and intergovernmental relations. This is in keeping with the GLITC's mission to expand the sovereignty and self-determination of Native peoples as a collective entity comprised of independent members who are committed to gather in a self-governed forum to address, discuss, and resolve issues that require intertribal attention.

Timothy J. McCollum

Further Reading
Loew, Patty. 2001. Indian Nations of Wisconsin. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Historical Society Press; Lurie, Nancy Oestreich. 2002. Wisconsin Indians, rev. and exp. ed. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Historical Society Press.

©2011 ABC-CLIO. All rights reserved.

  Chronological Essays
  People and Groups
  Southwest Nations
  California Nations
  Northwest Coast Nations
  Great Basin Nations
  Plateau Nations
  Great Plains Nations
  Northeast Woodlands Nations
  Subarctic Nations
  Arctic Nations
ABC-cLIO Footer