Native American History is Battle Creek History

Nancy Smit talks NHBP History with Battle Creekians

This past weekend, NHBP Tribal Council Secretary Nancy Smit spoke to Battle Creek area history buffs about the Tribe’s history. On a lovely Saturday afternoon, 20 to 25 curious minds sat in the Battle Creek Regional History Museum’s presentation room to listen to Smit share the story of NHBP. Beautifully laced with personal anecdotes, an informational PowerPoint presentation and plenty of facts, Smit gracefully educated attendees on their own local history.

“My history is one that is often overlooked,” Smit said. “Many people say, ‘Oh, she’s from a different culture. How nice.’ And they’ll just move on. Part of the reason that sharing my culture is so important is that I had a high school social studies teacher that the history they did teach wasn’t my history. It was a nice, soft 15 to 20 minutes spent on the conquering of my People, never thinking about who the conquered are.”

Currently, the Battle Creek Regional History Museum is in the midst of remodeling. As they go forward with new exhibits and presentations, the museum intends to work with NHBP representatives to ensure that the legacy shared is accurate to the diversity of Battle Creek history.

“The NHBP Tribe were the first people here in Battle Creek,” said Chairman of the museum’s board Doug Sturdivant. “So, it’s important to include them in all of our activities. With our renovation in here, we’re thinking of working with the Tribe so that we can make sure that whatever we develop, we develop with the Tribe in mind.”

When asked about a piece of NHBP history that stands out to him, Sturdivant recalled a seal that used to be in the downtown Battle Creek City Hall depicting colonizer violence against local Native Americans.

“Being African American myself, my history is very similar to Native American history,” Sturdivant said. “I see it as a kinship. We’re working together to help people understand what local history really is because so much of it has been omitted. That way, we can ensure that the people of Battle Creek understand that Native American and African American history is Battle Creek history. It’s all the same.”

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