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Michigan State Student Govt. Wants to Change Building Name Because School Sits on ‘Stolen Land’

Michigan State Student Govt. Wants to Change Building Name Because School Sits on ‘Stolen Land’

“The Morrill Act stole approximately 10.7 million acres of land from about 250 Native American Tribes”

If these students really believe their school sits on stolen land, shouldn’t they drop out and leave?

The College Fix reports:

Claiming MSU sits on ‘stolen land,’ student leaders pass resolution to rename Morrill building

The student government at Michigan State University recently passed a resolution to rename the college’s Justin S. Morrill Hall of Agriculture, citing the belief that the university sits on “stolen land.”

Morrill, an abolitionist who represented Vermont in the U.S. Senate, was the author of the 1862 Land-Grant College Act, which donated federal lands to many different states for the purpose of creating agricultural and mechanical arts colleges, one of which was MSU.

According to the resolution that the Associated Students of Michigan State University provided to The College Fix, “The Morrill Act stole approximately 10.7 million acres of land from about 250 Native American Tribes,” which displaced many of the members of these tribes.

In MSU’s case, the university sits on the ancestral lands of the “Anishinaabeg – Three Fires Confederacy of Ojibwe, Odawa and Potawatomi peoples.” Each meeting of ASMSU begins with the reading of a “Land Acknowledgment,” which names these tribes, the resolution states.

Signs in East Lansing that welcome visitors to campus boast of being “the pioneer land grant college.”

What the student government resolution does not mention is that Morrill (pictured) wrote two land-grant bills during his time in the Senate. The second bill, passed in 1890, focused on reserving land for the creation of historically black colleges and universities.

This law was likely the culmination of years of political action, as Frederick Douglass wrote a letter to Morrill in 1880, praising him for his efforts to get more funding for black schools.


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I would venture many of these “students” don’t even know who Frederick Douglass was. Or if they do, have no concept of his importance in American History. More importance than Michigan State University.

There are two separate issues: (1) the treatment of indigenous people, the “American Indians” which was horrible from 1620 to today and (2) the earmarking of the one asset the federal government had to promote higher education and to finance transcontinental railroads.

As to the first, each college should tell each student upset with the historic treatment of indigenous people to write home to their parents and ask them to turn over the deed to the family home to the local indian tribe. It is not the job of land grant colleges to return the wealth that was entrusted to them by the federal government. The land involved is only a small fraction of what was taken from the indigenous people by the United States.

As to the earmarking of assets and the vision and specific terms of the Morrill Act, this founded the modern American University. Previously, higher education was dominated by religious institutions and focused upon a classic education including reading texts in the original Greek or Latin. (You know, the dead white men stuff.) A practical education focusing upon agriculture, mechanical skills and military “tactic” lead to the creation of the modern research university and the growth of the middle class. In the Southern states, the land grant institutions excluded blacks, so Morrill push through the Second Morrill Act which required states that excluded blacks to open additional universities to serve blacks. This was the source of the HBCUs. If the MSU student government does not want to honor Morrill for the First Morrill Act, they should at least honor him for the second one — think of a society that otherwise denied a higher education to a significant portion of its total population, and how Morrill courageously fought to prevent that.