The board of the Native American Heritage Fund (NAHF) recently convened to approve its first ever grant recipients.
The grants will go towards defraying the costs of projects to remove imagery offensive to Native Americans in Battle Creek, Belding, and Kalamazoo.
Nearly $335,000 will support the replacement of equipment, apparel, and signage in Belding’s schools as they transition their mascot from the Redskins to the Black Knights. Over $76,500 will go to the city of Kalamazoo toward the removal of the Fountain of Pioneers in Bronson Parl. And about $3,350 will help Battle Creek City Hall remove and replace a stained glass window medallion.
The NAHF was created in 2016 as a part of a compact between the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi and the state of Michigan. That agreement allowed the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi to allocate a portion of its state revenue sharing payments to the NAHF, with the goal of providing financial assistance to defray the costs associated with projects that “promote positive relationships and accurate information on the history and role of Michigan’s Indian tribes and Native Americans in the state.”
Governor Rick Snyder said in a June press release that he was proud of the collaboration between the State of Michigan and the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi. “The implementation of this fund will allow local schools and municipalities the opportunity to cultivate awareness and respect for the culture and history of Michigan’s native people,” he said.
The board of the NAHF consists of two Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi appointees, two members appointed by Snyder, and a tribal liaison from the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. In early June, the board began accepting applications from Michigan’s K-12 schools, colleges, universities, and local governments, which are all eligible for grants to replace imagery that might be offensive to Native Americans.
The three approved grants will go toward projects that have been planned for some time.
The Belding school district officially changed its mascot to the Black Knights last spring, and was expected to be one of the first school districts to take advantage of the NAHF. Although the school board voted unanimously to change the mascot, some students have doubts about the rebranding.
In Kalamazoo, the City Commission voted in March to remove the Fountain of Pioneers, which some residents have decried as racist. The fountain depicts a Native American wearing a headdress, facing a weapon-wielding settler. City officials say the fountain will be dismantled and put into storage.
Six other applications are still under consideration for funding in 2018.