The FireKeepers Casino Hotel in Battle Creek, Mich., is helping cover the costs associated with removing mascot names and logos deemed offensive and/or racist from four public schools.
The Chippewa Hills Warriors scoreboard during a varsity boys basketball game in March 2021. The school district will soon receive funding from the FireKeepers Casino to change its mascot to the Golden Knights. (Image: Chippewa Hills School District)
Each year, the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, a federally recognized Native American tribe, donates up to $500,000 of its casino profits to its Native American Heritage Fund (NAHF). The fund is part of the tribe’s Class III gaming compact with the state. That allows it to operate slot machines, table games, and sports betting on its sovereign land at FireKeepers.
The NAHF funds are used to promote Native values and educate the community on its history, as well as forge stronger relationships with the general public. In 2022, the Nottawaseppi Indians say the money will be allocated to four public school systems to help them rebrand their mascots.
If we fund the decommissioning of racist mascot imagery now, we will have more money in the future for proactive program and curriculum programming,” said Nottawaseppi Huron Band Tribal Chair Jamie Stuck, who also oversees the NAHF.
An NAHF release says $411,439.35 will be granted next month to four school districts that are seeking to institute new mascots. The allocations will help the schools pay for new logos, purchase new athletic uniforms, and update their athletic facilities.
When it comes to determining whether a mascot is potentially offensive, Stuck says school boards should consult not only with students and families but also with local tribes. The NAHF release says the Chippewa Hills School District, Harford Public Schools, Lansing School District, and Saranac Community Schools are this year’s benefactors.
The NAHF is giving the Chippewa Hills School District $52,371.20 to replace its “Warriors” mascot with the “Golden Knights.” Hartford will receive $132,249.25 to swap out its “Indians” logo for the “Huskies.”
Saranac Community Schools will soon be known as the “Red Hawks” instead of the “Redskins,” a latter name deemed the “R-word” by the Michigan FireKeepers tribe. NAHF is giving $139,318.90 for that switch.
Finally, the Lansing School District will use $87,500 to rid its “Big Reds” identity in favor of a to-be-determined “culturally appropriate mascot and logo.”
The remaining 2022 NAHF funds will go to the Michigan College Access Network and Western Michigan University’s Native American Affairs Council. Each award will be officially granted during a ceremony at FireKeepers on Friday, August 19.
Tribal Casino Taxes
The Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi’s economic sovereignty is largely dependent on its FireKeepers Casino Hotel. The casino has over 2,900 slot machines, 70 live dealer table games, and a 26-table poker room.
The casino brought on-site sports betting to the property in 2020. FireKeepers’ iGaming and mobile sportsbook operations commenced last year.
The tribe’s Class III gaming compact requires FireKeepers to share 12% of its net gaming win with the state. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation receives 10% of the tax, with the remaining 2% set aside for local communities where the casino operates.
The NAHF is in addition to the Nottawaseppi’s tax obligations. The tribe says the money goes to good causes such as ridding local schools of utilizing racist and offensive mascots.
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