Saginaw Chippewa Service Learning

Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan

A group of Native Americans Dancing

Two Native Americans Dancing

Cross Cultural Service Learning with Native Americans

Mount Pleasant

The Tribe

The Saginaw Chippewa Indian tribe is made up of three bands of Ojibway (Saginaw, Black River, Swan Creek), who lived primarily in the eastern region of what is now Michigan. In 1855 and 1864, the Natives signed two treaties with the US government, to establish the Isabella Indian Reservation.

Conditions were poor on the Reservations, and many people ended up selling their land to lumbermen for much less than it was worth in order to feed their families. Because of this, by 1934 only a handful of land allotments remained owned by tribal members.

However, the tribe has persevered. Today, the opening and success of Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort has allowed greater opportunities for education, housing, and health care. The Reservation has also earned status as the largest employer in Isabella County, providing opportunities for neighboring community members as well.

The Trip

During this two-week experience, students will immerse themselves in the culture, history, traditions, and inner workings of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe. Students will learn about Anishinabe Culture, the tribe's oppressive history, and the cultural practices that have been passed down through generations. In addition, students will gain some recognition of the experience of Native Americans who were "re-educated" in government-run boarding schools. At the conclusion of the trip, students will recognize social issues concerning Native Americans, and have knowledge of how to best serve this population in the field of Social Work.


A selective group of 10-15 GVSU BSW or MSW students in Good Academic Standing

Credits (3)

Undergraduate: SW 351 (SW elective)
Graduate: SW 631 (MSW advanced policy/elective)

Faculty Contact

Professor Patty Stow Bolea, Ph.D., LMSW

For more information on the tribe and social service agencies involved, visit

"The trip has had an irrefutable impact on me; I'm forever grateful for this opportunity, for everyone involved with making it happen, anyone who contributed in any way while we were there, and for the people that I shared this life changing experience with."  Karen VanderLaan

"This was more than just a two-week trip I took for a class. It has definitely changed me in some ways and will continue to be a part of me," Katrina Miller



photo from MLive - Bay City Times



photo from East Michigan Council of Governments