Indigenous Enterprises in Mount Pleasant Eye Marijuana Industry Expansion

November 20th, 2023 Business & Industry
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In Mount Pleasant, Michigan, indigenous businesses are making a significant impact, managed by the Migizi Economic Development Center (Migizi EDC), a subsidiary of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe. These businesses, deeply rooted in cultural heritage, are now looking towards future growth, particularly in the marijuana industry.

During the recent "Soup and Substance" event, sponsored by Central Michigan University's Office of Indigenous Affairs and Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Migizi EDC representatives discussed their ventures and future plans. Panelists included Bonnie Sprague, General Manager of Soaring Eagle Waterpark and Hotel, and Brian Smith, Director of Economic Development at Migizi EDC, among others.

Migizi EDC's portfolio, featuring businesses such as the Soaring Eagle Waterpark and Hotel, is characterized by a strong emphasis on cultural identity. For instance, the Waterpark incorporates the Anishnabemowin language and shares Native American stories and principles, including the revered grandfather teachings. These cultural integrations are part of a broader strategy to embed indigenous heritage into business operations.

A significant revelation at the event was Migizi EDC's interest in expanding into the marijuana sector. Brian Smith elaborated on the challenges faced in this endeavor, stemming from complex interactions between state laws, federal regulations, and tribal sovereignty. Unlike other indigenous businesses, the marijuana industry poses unique regulatory challenges, particularly concerning licensing and banking restrictions.

Smith highlighted the necessity of negotiating with the cannabis regulation industry and the Michigan treasury to align with state requirements while maintaining tribal sovereignty. These efforts are part of a broader strategy to diversify the economic activities of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe while preserving its cultural integrity and reputation.

This move into the marijuana industry marks a significant step for Migizi EDC, as it navigates the intricate balance between cultural heritage, tribal sovereignty, and regulatory compliance. The potential expansion into this sector demonstrates the evolving landscape of indigenous business enterprises in Michigan and their adaptive strategies in a rapidly changing economic environment.

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