Michigan Civil Rights Commission

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In 1963, Michigan voters approved a new state constitution which set up the first Civil Rights Commission in U.S. history.

The Commission works to ensure each citizen receives equal protection without discrimination

Today, fifty years after the creation of the Commission, Matt Wesaw runs the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. A former state trooper, Wesaw is the first Native American to lead the Civil Rights Department.

Wesaw met with us in the studio to discuss the future of civil rights in Michigan.

Listen to the full interview above.

Casino Connection / Flickr

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The new executive director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights is starting his job this week in Lansing.

Matt Wesaw will begin Monday. He was chosen for the position by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission earlier in October.

Wesaw fills the vacancy left by the retirement Daniel Krichbaum in July.

With his selection, Wesaw is the first Native American to lead the Civil Rights Department. He plans to retire from his positions as chairman of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians and president and CEO of the Pokagon Gaming Authority.

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo / Flickr

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission has announced that Matt Wesaw will be the new Executive Board Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.

Wesaw will be the first Native American to lead MDCR. He has chosen to retire as Chairman of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians and President and CEO of the Pokagon Gaming Authority to take this position. In the past, he was a Michigan state police trooper, and a director for the Michigan State Police Troopers Association. He also served on the Commission of Indian Affairs and won the Native American Financial Officers Association's Tribal Leader of the Year award in 2012.

The U.S. Department of Education has dismissed a complaint from the Michigan Department of Civil Rights over schools’ use of American Indian mascots.

The civil rights department had argued that the images hurt Native American students’ academic performance, and create an unequal learning environment.

But federal education officials say opponents of Indian mascots and logos need to prove that they create a hostile environment for Native American students.

A new draft report finds allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians hurts Michigan’s economy. The state’s Civil Rights Commission is reviewing the report and might take action.

In Michigan it’s legal to discriminate against people who are Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or Transgender. Housing and job discrimination are a couple of the examples that are allowed by law.

Litandmore / Creative Commons

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission wants public input about bullying. The commission works to prevent and investigate discrimination complaints under state civil rights laws. It’s holding a series of forums across the state to collect the information in hopes of tackling what they say is a growing problem.