WSW: What Message Is Sent By Kalamazoo's Fountain Of The Pioneers?

Mar 1, 2018

File photo
Credit WMUK

Pat Lynn says history can’t be changed but she says removing the sculpture from the Fountain of the Pioneers in Kalamazoo’s Bronson Park would help heal from racism. (The story has been updated, see below)


Update: The Kalamazoo City Commission will consider a recommendation Monday night to remove the fountain and its pools from the park. City Manager Jim Ritsema's proposal calls for the sculpture to be placed in storage until a suitable venue is found. If the city commission approves Ristema's recommendation, a new plan will be developed for that space in Bronson Park.

Lynn, who is part Cherokee and Yvonne Moore, who is part of the Mackinac Band of Odawa, joined WMUK’s Gordon Evans to discuss the fountain and the sculpture by Alphonso Ianelli. The city commission is scheduled to discuss the sculpture and plans for Bronson Park in the near future.

Moore says the man with the club standing over the Native American promotes violence. The Indian is shown in a head dress, which Moore says was traditionally only used in ceremonies. Moore says the sculpture feels more like a Hollywood moment.

Lynn says when she looks at the sculpture, she only sees the club and one more symbol of white supremacy. Lynn says she would like to see the sculpture moved to a museum as one part of the story of Native people who lost their land to white settlers. She says full context can be provided in a museum setting. 

Moore says the fountain and statue are two different things. She would like to see the fountain left in place. She says it represents water, and could promote a place of tranquility and peace. Moore says if Kalamazoo wants to be known as welcoming city, city leaders should think about what message someone gets from the fountain.

The city’s master plan for Bronson Park calls for restoring the Fountain of the Pioneers. The city says the plan will guide the park’s renovation in a way that respects its history as a cultural landscape. Lynn says the cultural landscape has changed since 2015 when the master plan was approved. She says it’s not OK for a symbol of white supremacy to remain in Bronson Park.

The Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Potawatomi sent a letter to the city saying that removing the fountain would not change history. Moore says the stature is “not just a Potawatomi issue.” She says the tribe can have its own opinion and express it. But Moore says it’s a psychological issue, and the statue is promoting violence.