Cities, buildings, named for Lewis Cass a wrong to Native Americans that must be corrected

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Cities, roads and bodies of water all across Michigan are named to honor Lewis Cass, appointed governor of the Michigan Territory in 1813 when most of the land belonged primarily to the Native Americans. Cass negotiated 20 different treaties with Native tribes, coercing them to hand over thousands of acres of land to the United States.

Gerry Congleton
Gerry Congleton

President Andrew Jackson and Lewis Cass orchestrated and implemented their "Humane Plan" for the Indian Removal Act. The rationalization for the Indian Removal Act was to save "Indians" from becoming extinct — to become civilized, to become assimilated. The obvious intent was to take the fertile land being in control of the Native Americans east of the Mississippi River.

Cass expressed his attitude about Native Americans in an essay he wrote in 1826. Cass said, "the Indians were inherently savage and incapable of assimilating."

In an 1827 essay, Cass wrote, "The Indians are compelled to war of passions, they have not only no principles of religion or morality to repress their passions, but they are urged forward in their career of blood by all around them."

Cass was not only a major orchestrator of the Indian Removal Act, but an advocate of "Popular Sovereignty," the doctrine of allowing states to vote whether or not to allow slavery.

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This was not an honorable man and we need to do something to remove the Cass name from areas that were named to honor him. Fortunately, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has already started this by removing the Cass name from a government building in Lansing.

We can further correct these wrongs by removing his name from all locations in Michigan, which would include:

  • Cass Technical High School, Detroit

  • Cass Avenue, Detroit

  • Cass Park Historic District, Detroit

  • Cass County, in southwest Michigan

  • Cassopolis, a city and county seat of Cass County

  • Cass City, in Tuscola County

  • Cass Lake, in Oakland County

  • Cass Avenue, in Macomb County

  • Cass River, in Michigan's Thumb region

  • Cass Cliff on Mackinac Island

Gerry Congleton is a resident of Haslett and is a retired social studies teacher with a masters degree from Michigan State University with an emphasis in Native American Culture.

This article originally appeared on Lansing State Journal: Lewis Cass was not an honorable man, we must correct this wrong

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