Native American Heritage Grants Remove Decades of Indian Discrimination

Reversing decades of disrespect toward American Indians who have repeatedly been employed as symbols of nationhood, culture and business comes with a price tag. And now, a public corporation is determined to make sure city buildings, schools and monuments across Michigan start out with a clean slate.

The Native American Heritage Fund Board will foot the bill for Belding Area Schools to remove Redskin imagery from what had long served as the district’s mascot. Brent Noskey, the superintendent of schools, expects the $35,000 grant to stir the pot again. But, that’s ok, he said, because the school will no longer face charges of “racism.”

After a contentious debate over the name change, a move was made a year ago to the Belding Black Knights. The school had dropped the Redskins name in 2016 after distancing from the Native American imagery over the years. Noskey said the grant will cover the costs for changing sports uniforms and band outfits.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of GrantWatch.com, said Native American serving nonprofits and owners of small businesses are eligible for many government and private grants. But she said identifying these grants can be complex and confusing without narrowing a search. By applying categories to the keyword search today on GrantWatch for Native American we found 51 listings.  And when we used the complete search filter and clicked California for the geographic location (together with the keyword Native American), we found 26 today. Using the geographic focus for Michigan we found 24. 

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GrantWatch adds new grants daily; including funding opportunities that address education, such as teacher training and curriculum development, and health and well-being, economic development and infrastructure, and culture and heritage.

American Indians represent only 1 percent of the U.S. population, but as many as three-quarters believe they have faced discrimination, according to a survey conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. And more than one-third say they have been personally subjected to racial or ethnic slurs, or insensitive or offensive comments about their race/ethnicity.

Michigan schools with American Indian mascots learned in January they could receive funds to change identities under a new agreement between the state and Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi. The fund board, including members from several Native American groups and representatives in Michigan, was created in 2016 as part of the Tribal-State Gaming Compact.

Since then, $76,765 has been designated for the removal of the Fountain of the Pioneers and site improvements at Bronson Park, in Kalamazoo. And, in Battle Creek, a Native American Heritage Fund Board grant will replace a century-old stained-glass window in city hall. The grant will cover $3,400 – about half – of the cost to remove a mosaic medallion depicting what is believed to be a white settler clubbing a Native American on the city seal.

Both Jamie Stuck, tribal chairman for the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, and City Manager Rebecca Fleury believe the window is an inaccurate depiction of history. After its removal, the window may be preserved at the Regional History Museum in Battle Creek.

Nonprofits, community-based groups, municipalities and concerned citizens frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for grants to provide services for Native Americans and government tribes in need can identify funding opportunities at GrantWatch.comSign-up to receive the weekly GrantWatch newsletter which features geographic-specific funding opportunities.

About the Author: Staff Writer for GrantWatch

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