Lewis Cass’ legacy with “Trail of Tears” is cause to cut ties

Published: Jan. 21, 2021 at 5:55 PM EST
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - A school district in Cass County, Michigan may soon have a new name. If approved, the new name will be less controversial than the current title.

“We’re going to go with Heritage Southwest Intermediate School District,” Lewis Cass Intermediate School District Superintendent Brent Holcomb says.

The new year is often a time for “new year, new me” resolutions, but for this school district, it’s a new year, new name.

“Yesterday was the final resolution for the board to submit the name to the State Department of Ed., so that resolution will be going up to the MDE (Michigan Department of Education) for their approval, sometime next week,” Holcomb says.

It’s a name change that’s been in the works for awhile and now the school district is going with a name that supports the diversity in Cass County, Michigan.

“We live in a very diverse county. We have a great history here of African American, Native American, English or Caucasian settlement folks, even Hispanic populations that have moved in for agriculture,” Holcomb adds.

So what’s wrong with the current name, Lewis Cass?

“There’s some historical aspects related to some political positions on slavery, and someone that was, at the federal level, working on Indian removal,” Holcomb says.

Lewis Cass was Secretary of War under President Andrew Jackson. He played a major role in removing Native Americans from their land, making him partly responsible for the Trail of Tears; the name for the deadly journey Native Americans were forced to make to designated Indian territory.

Cass is an important figure in Michigan, but this school district is leaving that legacy in the past, if the State Board of education agrees. As for when the change is in place, time will tell.

“Whether it will be on in February or March, I’m not sure.”

Holcomb adds that making the change won’t require much work aside from legal paperwork and changing the signage around the district.

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