Grant funding totaling approximately $ 122,250 has been awarded by the Kalamazoo Community Foundation and the Michigan Humanities Council to support the Bronson Park 21st Century campaign, including the restoration of the Fountain of the Pioneers complex and educational components to accompany it. Bronson Park forms the center of the Bronson Park National Register Historic District.
Despite Fountain of the Pioneers designer Alfonso Iannelli’s intention, his Prairie Modern masterpiece has been accused of celebrating racism. The Bronson Park 21st Century Campaign’s Public Education committee, including representatives of the local Gun Lake Band of Pottawatomi, resolved to keep the fountain with the addition of a multifaceted education effort to explore its history and Kalamazoo’s connections to Band, which is also known as the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians.
The $ 100,000 grant from the Kalamazoo Community Foundation was made to help restore the Fountain of the Pioneers complex and create and implement educational programs that treat the nationally significant Fountain sculpture as a "site of conscience" and support campaign planning and execution.
“This request aligns with KZCF’s priorities of education and equity because it supports not only the redevelopment of Kalamazoo’s Bronson Park and its Iannelli Fountain, but it provides an opportunity to elevate the marginalized voices of the Pottawatomi tribe, and gives them the ability to engage the community through the addition of an educational component that the tribe will create,” the Kalamazoo Community Foundation issued in a statement.
An approximately $ 22,250 Heritage Grant was awarded to the Kalamazoo Historic Preservation Commission by the Michigan Humanities Council to develop engaging methods to present an accurate history of American Indian occupation of the region.
“The Tribe is working with community leaders in Kalamazoo to educate the public on the real history of Kalamazoo’s first peoples and share our rich heritage,” wrote Gun Lake Tribal Councilwoman Phyllis Davis in a letter supporting the grant application. “We hope to do this through an education program and also some historical markers in each corner of the reservation.”
The Campaign’s Public Education Committee is preparing Wi-Fi-enabled kiosks to be located in Bronson Park and at corners of the 1821-1829 Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish reservation where Kalamazoo now stands. With Next Exit History internet mapping, the Pottawatomi’s own words and images will tell their story of broken Euro-American treaties, resistance to removal, cultural re-engagement and community stewardship.
More information on the Bronson Park 21st Century Campaign and the Bronson Park Master Plan is available at www.kalamazoocity.org/bronsonpark.