In the fall of 1936, Mr. Scott N. Peters, a Chippewa in conjunction with a group of Native American individuals, who graduated from Flandreau Indian School, aspired to helped Native American women. They encouraged Native women to find employment and receive equal opportunities in higher education.

At the time Native American people were discriminated against in regards to, housing, public assistance, and employment opportunities. The successful placement of both Native American men &women was a giant step toward laying the foundation for civil rights & equal employment opportunities in the Detroit area.

In 1940 this group of Native Americans persuaded the Board of Directors of the YMCA to donate the use of their facilities of the YMCA to the Native community to host their meetings; the Board accepted and reserved the 7th floor for their use.

Several different tribes from the United States and Canada were represented in the group. Elders, adults and youth found enjoyment in meeting other Native families in the Detroit area. Several community meetings came about to discuss guidelines, and Constitution for the newly founded group.

Choosing a name for the new club took time but since there were many tribes represented from Canada as well as the United States, it was finally voted that the new club would be named “the North American Indian Club”.

The First Elected officers were:

Mr. David McCoy, President
Mr. Norbert Hill, Vice President
Mrs. Marie Plecher Herman, Secretary
Mrs. Hannah Stonefish Aikens, Treasurer

In the beginning of the North American Indian Club dues were 50 cents per member per year but this later changed to one dollar per year. Around that time a donation was given to the YMCA each year for the use of their facilities, in addition they encouraged members to apply for membership at the YMCA as well but it was not a requirement.

The primarily purpose of the club was to provide opportunities for Natives to meet and enjoy social, recreational and cultural activities, sporting events, dinner dances, pow-wows, and employment resources were and still remain some of the regular activities the club sponsored.

Since 1940 the years have brought about many changes, including the name of our organization but we our one and the same under the new and standing name “The North American Indian Association”.

In 1972, the articles of incorporation for the club were filled with the state and the club became the North American Indian Association of Detroit, Inc.
The club was now a Michigan corporation, licensed and authorized to do business. The first office was located at 19317 Fenmore in Detroit. This was the home of NAIA’s first resident agent, Russ Wright.

In 1973, NAIA was granted exemption from federal income tax by the Internal Revenue Service as a non-profit business and was empowered to conduct business exclusively for charitable and educational purposes. This allowed contributions made to NAIA tax deductible.
At this point in its history, the NAIA and its supporters realized that its activities would be more complex and more difficult to manage. The club blossomed into a business; staff positions were created. An accountant and NAIA’s first Executive Director Dean George were hired. NAIA’s first official office was located in George’s living room in Detroit. He officially began conducting new business on August 12, 1974. By the end of 1974, the organization had successfully competed for three grants, enabling the club to do more to assist Natives in the metro Detroit area.

NAIA and friends soon decided to form an entity called the Detroit Indian Center. The center served as a focal point and provided services to natives according to the grant guidelines.
The three major grants that we had were CETA/DOL, ANA, and DAAA.
Over the years NAIA out grew prior residences and after three major moves NAIA headquarters now rests at 22720 Plymouth Road in Detroit since 1987.

The 1980’s were astronomical for the Indian Center we had CETA, which later became JTPA which changed again in 2000 to WIA- INAP who we still receive federal funding from the department of labor.

Under department of labor funds we operated satellite offices, had six full time staff and expanded our employment and training programs to an all time high.

With the success of CETA we reached out to other funding sources and became successful in having various programs such as day care, linking lifetimes, emergency food and shelter, seniors, youth, and a social services department which we were able to assist families in need provided by funds allocated to us by the Michigan department of Human Services.

Over the decades NAIA has made their mark on major events throughout time in the Metropolitan Detroit area; Michigan Indian Day where all native people could get together and celebrate unity, starting a Native American Art Gallery, running Totem Pole Deli selling Native American cured meats , participation and planning of the Detroit 300 celebration, Thanksgiving Day parade’s.

The Detroit Indian Center would not have become what is today if weren’t for a few special people that we would like to mention: Scott Peters, Dean and Shirley George, Elmer Sebastian, Eve Elm, Maynard Kennedy, Aaron Baker, Oliver Brant, Teofilo Lucero, Tom Volk, Irene Lowery, Rose Sylvie, and to our Honoree members of the association John Dingle and Jackie Vaughn.

Thank you to all who gave us the beginning and thank you to the next seven generations who will give us our future.