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App shows historic boundary of Native American land in Kalamazoo

KALAMAZOO, MI — A free educational app launched this month as part of a campaign to accurately portray the history of indigenous Native Americans in Kalamazoo.

In a partnership with the Gun Lake Band of Pottawatomi, the project is part of a $2.8 million campaign for significant landscaping and infrastructure improvements to Bronson Park. Digital markers stand at the four corners of the Gun Lake Band’s historic reservation, allowing videos and other content to be viewed through the “Next Exit History” app.

A Michigan Humanities Council grant funded the project, which features members of the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians. Using their own words and images, the Pottawatomi tell heir story of Euro-American betrayal, resistance to removal, cultural re-engagement and community stewardship.

Residents can learn about historic treaties, relations between tribes and efforts to force Native Americans off their land. The 1830 Indian Removal Act forced some members of the Pottawatomi to Kansas and Oklahoma, referred to the Trail of Death by historians.

READ MORE: Click here to read the full Bronson Park Master Plan 

A public education committee has been working since 2014 to develop methods to present an accurate, unbiased history of the Kalamazoo region.

The app is also meant to contextualize historical the period during which Bronson Park’s Fountain of the Pioneers was designed. Even today, discussion about the monument almost never fails to include the controversy over its meaning.

The Fountain of the Pioneers complex was dedicated on June 6, 1940. The 76-year-old monument was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 28.

Designed by Midwestern modernist artist, sculptor and designer Alfonso Iannelli, the statue and fountain display is Bronson Park’s most prominent feature.

Public outcry about the fountain’s perceived celebration of racism. Some find the image of a Native American in headdress beneath a…

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