KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Kalamazoo has installed streets signs that identify the original boundaries of a 19th century Native American reservation, with city and tribal leaders saying Monday that the gesture pays tribute to the people who named the city.
Twenty-five signs at busy intersections mark out the lines of the reservation, which was created as a result of the Treaty of Chicago and existed from 1821 to 1827. Covering nine square miles and including much of what is now downtown, it was home to the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, also known as the Gun Lake Tribe.
“This goes back to treaties centuries old and it’s good to get that acknowledgement,” George Martin, a member of the Gun Lake Tribal Council, said. “It acknowledges that the tribe has always been in this area and this is our homeland, this is the homeland of our ancestors, so this is a very important and historical day for us.”
As the signs were unveiled Monday, Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell said the city has come a long way in respectfully acknowledging the history of native people.
“We know that just in this past year we did something that really symbolizes our belief in the native people and the original people of this land by removing the Fountain of the Pioneers,” Hopewell said. “Controversy, all that stuff, I understand it, but this (unveiling) was done in love and honor of people — the people that belong to this community, that belong to this land.”
He said that while the signs won’t rewrite history, they can help reconnect the community.
“Truly the tribe, the first people of this community, have sometimes gone forgotten,” Hopewell said. “We have a tendency to do that: to forget our history, to forget how that history moved us today.”
Hopewell said the signs are just the first in a series of signs, plaques and other memorials the city will install to better honor the legacy of the indigenous population.
Martin believes they are a good start to rebuilding relations with the city that lately have been uneasy.
“It is healing,” Martin said of the signs. “Even if it’s not total healing for some of our ancestors, for some of our people, it’s a good start. It’s a very good start.”