CASSOPOLIS — The legacy of Lewis Cass, a longtime territorial governor of Michigan in the early 1800s, will be scrutinized in the next few months by a committee being formed by the Lewis Cass Intermediate School District.
ISD President Kevin Anderson said it’s appropriate to reconsider the name of the district at this time.
“It’s been part of our name, part of our history, for quite some time,” Anderson said. “But I think some of the background information that was shared by the governor certainly brings to light that we should have a conversation about our name.”
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently renamed the state-owned Lewis Cass Building in Lansing. A news release about the renaming said that while Cass was important to the state’s history, he also owned a slave, defended a system that would permit the expansion of slavery and implemented a policy to forcibly remove Native Americans from their tribal lands.
Superintendent Brent Holcomb said that if committee members decide to recommend that the name be changed, they will be tasked with coming up with suggestions.
Julie Dye of Dowagiac, a citizen of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, thanked the board for forming the committee.
“As an individual, I am disgusted every time I drive by the Dailey Road facility and read the sign out front because I know what his name means to me,” she said. “I’m also ashamed that my tax dollars are celebrating this man who was responsible for the forced removal and the death of people as the architect of President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act.”
Holcomb said the committee will include a diverse group of people.
Board member Frank Ross said that if the name is changed, he doesn’t want it to honor another person.
“We have to be careful not to fall into another trap,” he said. “If we ended up naming this after somebody else, 10 to 15 years downstream, we may be redoing this, again.”
He said that a generic name could be chosen, such as North Star or Wolverine.
Holcomb said he wants to give committee members the chance to create their own timeline and would report back to the board the committee’s progress next month.