This isn’t about cultural diversity or cultural awareness or political correctness.
It’s about getting it right.
In what seems to be the umpteenth screw-up related to the makeover of Clinch Park, the city failed to recognize some 800 years of history and began a series of bricks inscribed with famous dates in the history of the Clinch Park area with the construction of the Hannah Lay Big Mill in 1852.
Other noteworthy events engraved in stone include construction of a railroad depot, a cold storage warehouse and a canning factory; the openings of the Clinch Park Zoo, the Con Foster Museum and the city marina; creation of the Open Space; and the first National Cherry Festival.
What isn’t mentioned is that about 800 years ago the Anishinaabek people, the name for the three tribes indigenous to what is now the state of Michigan, built the first structures in Clinch Park and that they long had settlements nearby.
“For 800 years, at least, people had lived at the mouth of the Boardman River, occupied that place, and had permanent or temporary villages there,” said Richard Fidler, a local historian and author.
So no, despite what the bricks say, the history of what is now Clinch Park didn’t start with a lumber mill built by white settlers in 1852. And it’s incumbent on the city to get it right.
The concrete walk that leads from the tunnel under Grandview Parkway across the park and past the new pavilion is interspersed with 12 rows of engraved bricks that feature historical events in the area’s history.
City Planner Russ Soyring said some discussions took place with the architect during the park’s planning stages about including recognition of the first people to settle the region, but that didn’t make the final cut.
The city didn’t have a specific date for Native American settlement to remain consistent with the theme, and some viewed the original settlers as more a part of the history of the city as a whole than events at Clinch Park, Soyring said.
That doesn’t cut it. The historical record shows there were settlements around the mouth of the Boardman, just a few hundred yards from what is now Clinch. Does anyone realistically think those settlements aren’t part of the history of the land that now makes up the park? How close do they have to be to count?
The city needs to work with the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians to determine wording that works, get some bricks engraved and install them where they should have been in the first place.