Kalamazoo changes Columbus Day, keeps disputed fountain
Kalamazoo — Officials in Kalamazoo have agreed to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus Day, but the city hasn’t decided what to do with a statue that some say celebrates the forced removal of Native Americans.
The Kalamazoo City Commission approved a resolution Monday to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day on the second Monday of October every year. The resolution was a response to concerns from residents during an Oct. 2 meeting, the Kalamazoo Gazette reported .
Deputy City Manager Jeff Chamberlain said the move is symbolic because Kalamazoo doesn’t recognize Columbus Day.
The Indigenous Peoples Day resolution encourages businesses, organizations and public entities to recognize the holiday. A growing number of states and municipalities across the country, including prominent cities in Michigan, have recently decided to officially stop observing Columbus Day, which became a federal holiday in 1934.
Proponents of Indigenous Peoples Day believe the holiday is a chance to educate people about native cultures that suffered under an often violent colonization and continue to exist in present day America.
Commissioners also discussed the Fountain of the Pioneers, which depicts a Native American wearing a headdress and facing a weapon-wielding settler. Several people at the Monday meeting called for its removal from Bronson Park, saying the 76-year-old statue is a reminder of the country’s treatment of native tribes.
David Broke, a member of Kalamazoo’s Historic Preservation Commission, said the fountain asks residents to think about uncomfortable historic facts. He said the statue’s an effective reminder that native peoples are still here despite the “ill intentions” of the United States government.
But many members of the city commission didn’t agree with the interpretation.
“We’re asking folks to deal with the fact that this fountain makes their children cry so people brought about through American society can have something that brings up a (topic) of discussion,” said Commissioner Matt Milcarek.
Commissioners didn’t immediately make a motion regarding the fountain. But they agreed to re-open the conversation. Milcarek said it’s only a matter of time until the fountain is removed, and that it will be done with shame that it stood for so long.