Yue Stella Yu, Bridge Michigan, April 7, 2022
Michigan Democrats this weekend could call for the removal of a monument to Gen. George Custer in Monroe and support legislation to protect Native American burial sites.
The issues are among those that made the cut — and did not — of 20 proposed priorities that members are expected to vote on Saturday during the party’s annual endorsement convention in downtown Detroit.
The resolutions highlight the Democratic Party’s priorities “at the moment,” party spokesperson Abby Rubley told Bridge Michigan.
As such, they underscore some conflicts.
Michigan Progressive Caucus Chair Abel Delgado, a Flint resident, told Bridge Michigan most resolutions do not touch upon racial injustice and are not enough to combat “Trumpism” and GOP efforts to ban things like the teaching of “Critical Race Theory.”
“We still have to go up against the fact that the GOP is mobilizing their base through racism,” he said. “We have to have a dominant narrative to address that, and we haven’t yet.”
Detroit-area party members wanted to submit a resolution opposing new redistricting maps that eliminate two majority-minority congressional districts but did not submit paperwork in time, said Jonathan Kinloch, chair of the 13th Congressional District Democratic Party that covers much of Detroit.
Some Democrats feel the state party did not speak out enough to support Black lawmakers’ lawsuit on redistricting, Kinloch said, stressing he is not one of them.
Instead, party members will vote on whether to urge the city of Monroe to remove a statue of Custer, who spent his childhood there and later was a Union general who also fought Native Americans before his death in the Battle of Little Bighorn,.
The debate over how to handle the monument has persisted for years in Monroe, with the city council agreeing in 2020 to update the monument with more information. In 2021, the city terminated a plan to hire an outside consultant to decide the future of the monument.
The Democratic resolution states Custer was “notoriously known as the ‘Indian Killer,'” and the statue is a “painful public reminder of the genocide of Indigenous peoples.”
“Decades of research show that racist policies, symbols, and behaviors are linked with lower well-being, educational barriers, physical health problems, employment problems, such as higher job turnover for people who endure racism and ethnocentrism like many American Indians and Alaska Natives,” the resolution states.
Another resolution would call upon the party to support legislation protecting burial sites outside federal or tribal lands.
The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act protects burial sites on federal or tribal lands, but state law governs burial sites elsewhere. There is no current Michigan law protecting those sites from intentional development, according to the convention resolution.
The Anishinaabek Caucus of the Democratic Party has pushed for both resolutions to raise awareness statewide, said caucus vice chair Nat Spurr.