Detroit police dismantle Native sugarbush ceremonies, declaring that “sovereign stuff” isn’t valid.


Antonio Cosme speaks to an officer on Feb. 18, 2022.

Antonio Cosme speaking to an officer, February 18, 2022

Detroit police officers stopped a sugarbush celebration in River Rouge Park on Friday evening, despite the claims of organizers that they were authorized by the city and had fire permits.

Detroit Police Department has not yet responded to inquiries for comment.

The ceremony was held to kick off the third annual tapping season as part of the Detroit Sugarbush Project, led by a coalition of local groups whose mission is to teach Detroiters how to tap — literally and figuratively — into the tradition of making maple syrup and pass on other ecological knowledge.

Participants have been learning from Anishinaanabes and Potawatomi from the Midwest for three years about the sugerbush ceremony. They also tapped River Rouge Park maple trees and cooked the sap on a campfire. According to ceremony organizers and the website, the city of Detroit granted the project a memorandum o understanding (MOU).

Antonio Cosme (Detroit Sugarbush Project organizer) said that he was also issued a permit to burn for the bonfire by the fire department.

The 20 guests noticed a helicopter hovering above them at 8 pm, just after dinner and prayers. Rosebud Bear-Schneider was the ceremony’s organizer. She said that they could see police cars through the trees and saw lights.

We thought that maybe someone else was being pulled over. “We didn’t believe it was for us.” Bear-Schneider claimed that they were innocent of any wrongdoing.

Cosme claimed that he investigated and found seven police cars with more than 12 officers. Cosme said that he presented the MOU and permits to the officer responsible.

Cosme was speaking at the edge, while the officer in chief spoke. Six tactical-equipped officers appeared in the clearing. They informed the attendees that they would be leaving in two minutes.
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This interaction was captured on Instagram. It shows two officers standing side by side along the clearing edge as smoke from the extinguished fire drifted between them and their guests.
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Bear-Schneider explained that they tried to get them to discuss the Religious Freedom Act. We tried to explain our sovereignty. “They didn’t want any of that.”

The video shows an officer saying “The sovereign stuff” and insisting that the attendees had violated city ordinances regarding entry to the park at night.

Bear-Schneider believes they were allowed in the park after 10 p.m. even though the city permits and MOU had been cancelled.

Detroit Code of Ordinances Chapter 33 says: All City parks and public areas… shall remain closed from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am, except that posted signs indicate a different time.

Cosme spotted that people were leaving the forest carrying chairs and tables, as soon as he got the OK from the officer who was in charge of the ceremony.

Bear-Schneider stated that six police officers watched as the participants packed up and threatened to arrest them if they refused. The situation was eventually resolved by the officer in command.

Bear-Schneider claimed that this clearly was an “important miscommunication between all these departments”, which should never have taken place.

The officer in charge did not issue any citations. Cosme explained that the evening ended with angry attendees filing a complaint with the chief officer. Bear-Schneider reported that Saturday’s second report was submitted at the Detroit Police Department’s 6th Precinct.

Cosme confirmed that the paperwork of the group is in order and will carry on with the Sugerbush Project according to plan.

“They aren’t stopping us. The cultural revival taking place among Native peoples across this country is impossible for these settlers to stop.

Rosebud Bear-Schneider speaks to sugarbush attendees on Feb. 19, 2022.

Rosebud Bear/Schneider talks to sugarbush guests on Feb. 19, 2022.

Bear-Schneider was one of those present at the Saturday gathering.

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She stated that maple tapping is part of an overall movement for food sovereignty, which focuses on Indigenous food systems.

Bear-Schneider stated that “We have a responsibility towards this land, to these trees and these ways. So we are not going to allow any of it get in the way” “It is a shame it’s 2022, and we still need to fight for rights and to just exist as Native People.

Detroit Free Press: Detroit Police Break Up Peaceful and Permitted Native Ceremony

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