Michigan Gaming Revenue Helping Fund Mascot Changes, Other Community Efforts

Written By Julie Walker on July 14, 2022

The Native American Heritage Fund board recently announced it was awarding nearly $480,000 in grants for six community projects in the state.

A pool of 11 applicants were considered before the winners were revealed at the board’s June 17 meeting. Grant funds will help support schools and programs making positive changes that honor Native American history and culture.

The fund is supported by state gaming revenue.

Winners to receive awards in August

The awards will be presented during a public ceremony set for noon on Aug. 19 at FireKeepers Casino Hotel in Battle Creek.

Here are the 2022 NAHF grant winners:

  • The Chippewa Hills School District won $52,371.20 to replace the current “Warriors” mascot with new “Golden Knights” branding.
  • Hartford Public Schools won $132,249.25 to help install new meaningful curriculum and to help rebrand the school’s mascot from the “Indians” to the “Huskies”.
  • The Lansing School District will receive $87,500 to help rebrand with a new mascot.
  • Michigan’s College Access Network will receive $55,000 to keep funding the College Completion Corps program. The program places three completion coaches at three tribal colleges for the upcoming school year, including Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College, Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College and Bay Mills Community College. Completion coaches are assigned students who are first-generation, low-income and/or are students of color to help them succeed and persist in college.
  • The Native American Affairs Council at Western Michigan will get $12,295 in funding to host “A Conversation with Dallas Goldtooth” of the Mdewakanton Dakota and Dine with Native News Online.
  • Saranac Community Schools won $139,318.90 to transition to its new mascot, the “Red Hawks”.

Nixing racist mascot imagery a priority

While grant funding supports several projects, priority was given to schools looking to change racist mascot imagery. Such changes quickly get expensive when calculating costs for changing uniforms, logos, buildings and more.

“If we fund the decommissioning of racist mascot imagery now, we will have more money in the future for proactive program and curriculum programming,” NAHF Chairperson Jamie Stuck said in a release.

These changes often are a long time coming and have reached the professional level of sports. The NFL’s Washington Commanders and MLB’s Cleveland Guardians are two such teams that have made positive changes in recent years.

Members of the NAHF encourage schools to consult local Tribes, in addition to students and the community, when considering new mascots.

Native American Heritage Fund established in 2016

Created in 2016, the Native American Heritage Fund happened by way of a second amendment to the Tribal-State Gaming Compact between Michigan and the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi (NHBP), a federally recognized tribal government.

The amendment makes possible an annual deposit from state gaming revenue into the NAHF. A $500,000 deposit for the fiscal period of 2016 started it off.

For each annual fiscal period moving forward, a deposit will be made to bring the fund’s balance back to $500K. As an example, if the fund only spent $200,000 in one fiscal period, the deposit for the next period would be $300,000.

Funds are intended to help promote better relationships between schools, local governments and federally recognized Native American Tribes in the state. Monies from the fund get allocated for educational resources, programming and other programs that promote proper understanding of Michigan Indian history, including changing out offensive mascots.

NAHF board members determine how funds get spent. The board includes two members appointed by the governor, two appointed by the NHBP Tribal Council and the director for Michigan’s Civil Rights department, or a designee of the director.

This year’s board members include Stuck (NHBP Tribal Council Chairperson); vice chairperson Dorie Rios (NHBP Tribal Council Vice Chairperson); secretary Elizabeth Kinnart (Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians Citizen); treasurer Melissa Kiesewetter (Michigan Dept. of Civil Rights Tribal Liaison/Native American Specialist); and board member Kimberly Vargo (Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians).

Photo by Shutterstock
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Julie Walker

Julie has written, edited and designed words at five Michigan newspapers and websites. She’s worked on two sports desks, including at The Oakland Press and most recently at The Detroit News. Julie has contributed to stories on many big sports moments, from the NFL's 100th season to Super Bowls to Justin Verlander’s trade to the closing of the Palace of Auburn Hills.  Julie loves lakes, bonfires, Dachshunds, coaching Little League and carrying on her Dad’s fantasy football legacy that he started in 1987 — before there was an app for that.

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