U.P. History 101

To the Journal editor:

The 1795 Treaty of Greenville, which placed Michigan Great Lakes forts in U.S. hands, included the signature of Potawatomi Indian Chief Wahbememe.

According to legend, around 1830 while attending a gathering of other chiefs in Detroit, Wahbememe heard of a plot to attack a settlement in southwest Lower Michigan. The history records say Wahbememe immediately set out on foot and ran nearly 150 miles, without stopping, to alert the village of the impending danger and soon after he collapsed from exhaustion and died.

Wahbememe had given his word of protection and friendship to the white settlers and was quoted as saying “to betray my village of white people is to betray myself.” Chief Wahbememe’s remains are buried on the site of his death, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1909 members of the Alba Columba Club, a women’s group of the village, raised funds and community support and created a monument at the burial site. On August 10,1909 a day-long celebration marked the dedication of Wahbememe’s memorial with about four thousand people attending including Michigan’s Lieutenant Gov. Patrick H. Kelley. All watched as Chief Wahbememe’s six year old great-great grandson Willie, unveiled the finished monument.

This historical and legendary information is important as in 1837 the village Chief Wahbememe gave his life for was incorporated and named White Pigeon, the translated name of Wahbememe.

As a high school graduate of the White Pigeon School District, home of the White Pigeon Chiefs mascot, I was always proud to have represented the school district in all school sponsored events, as a White Pigeon Chief. With all the history and legendary information of Chief Wahbememe, our mascot is more than just a logo.

I am concerned about the recent complaint filed by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights asking to ban the use of American Indian mascots and imagery in K-12 schools, because it denies equal rights to American Indian students.

My purpose of writing this is not to dispute any claims or documented cases by anyone being negatively impacted by the use of American Indian mascots. I just wanted to share my personal experience in hopes every case in Michigan is looked at individually.