The Native American Heritage Fund awarded a nearly $335,000 grant Friday to the Belding school district to remove Redskin imagery formerly used as a mascot. The district switched to the Belding Black Knights mascot in March 2017 after a contentious debate over the new name.
"This will stir the pot a little bit again, getting this money, but I want everyone to know that our community is not racist," said Superintendent Brent Noskey.
The school board dropped the Redskins name in 2016 after moving away from the Native American imagery for years.
"We still have a lot of Redskin imagery on some of our sports uniforms, our band and to change that over is a lot of cost," Noskey said.
The fund is intended to "replace or revise mascots and imagery" deemed offensive or conveying inaccurate representations of Native Americans, according to the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi. The fund's board approved grants for the first time this year.
Battle Creek was awarded about $3,400 to replace a century-old stained-glass window in city hall that depicts what's believed to be a white settler clubbing a Native American on a version of the city seal created in 1859.
"That seal is an inaccurate portrayal of the relationship that our people had with the city and we expressed that," said Jamie Stuck, Tribal Chairman for the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi.
The window replacement is intended as a sign of respect over the shared belief that it's an inaccurate depiction of history, said City Manager Rebecca Fleury.
The window may be preserved at the Regional History Museum Battle Creek after it's removed. The grant will cover about half of the estimated $6,755 cost to replace the mosaic medallion.
The grants will be approved for disbursement next month.