Kalamazoo, Michigan: Controversial Sculpture of Whites vs Indians

The "Fountain of the Pioneers" was meant to represent the banishment of the Potowatomi people, but it was perhaps too graphic in its representation. Sculpted by a guy who also designed toasters. The city plans to remove the fountain in 2018.

Bronson Park

South St., Kalamazoo, MI
Fountain of the Pioneers, Bronson Park. South side of midtown. I-94 exit 76B. North on Westnedge Ave. for two miles, then continue north on Park St. for another mile. Turn right (east) onto South St., which is at the southwest corner of Bronson Park. The Fountain is two blocks east, in the center of the eastern half of the Park.
Save to My Sights

Visitor Tips and News About Controversial Sculpture of Whites vs Indians

Reports and tips from RoadsideAmerica.com visitors and Roadside America mobile tipsters. Some tips may not be verified. Submit your own tip.

Fountain of the Pioneers

An education initiative, based on extensive planning, led by tribal members and dedicated volunteers, will place the Fountain in the context of accurate history. Multple social media and physical markers will expand public access to this history, and will present the compelling story of the Pottawatomi.

[Mom du Jour, 06/24/2017]

The Fountain, designed in 1940, features a blocky, Art Decoish white settler and a guy in a Plains Indian headdress. It was meant to depict the banishment of the Pottawatomi from Michigan to Iowa in the 19th century.

Indians vs. Whites.

Controversial Sculpture of Whites vs Indians

We just did a "Hidden Kalamazoo" tour a few weeks ago and saw the fountain. The tour guide said they are going to update and fix the crumbling concrete.

[Tracey, 08/02/2015]

Indians vs. Whites.

Controversial Sculpture of Whites vs Indians

Very interesting sculpture-fountain. Many other things to see in the park, such as topiary animals, a statue of a soldier, a cannon, and another fountain filled with statues of children playing (which was under construction when we visited).

[Perfect Pair, 07/06/2013]

Whites vs Indians.

Controversial Sculpture of Whites vs Indians

Don't see it myself. Hasn't worn well.

[John Mansfield, 10/02/2012]

It resembles an Art Deco waffle griddle... or a panini maker.

Whites vs. Indians.

Controversial Sculpture of Whites vs Indians

In 1940, Alfonso Ianelli unveiled a fountain sculpture in Bronson Park in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Titled "Fountain of the Pioneers," it depicted a blocky, Art Decoish white settler and a guy in a Plains Indian headdress. It was meant to represent the banishment of the Potowatomi people from Michigan to Iowa in the 19th century.

Ianelli wrote at the time that "the Indian is shown in posture of noble resistance, yet being absorbed as the white man advances." Other people, however, saw an Indian kneeling in submission to a white guy, who was hoisting a big club. It's difficult to tell who is right, given the vague abstractness of Ianelli's design.

Ianelli, who also designed toasters for Sunbeam, wanted his sculpture to make people think. But he likely never imagined that people would be calling for its banishment -- just like the Potowatomi -- 65 years later.

Beginning in 2005, fifteen people calling themselves the Fountain of the Pioneers Issues Resolution Group began demanding that the sculpture either be removed, destroyed, or hidden behind a high wall. They claimed that the Fountain of the Pioneers was insulting, or at least inaccurate, as Indians with big headdresses didn't live anywhere near Kalamazoo. Others suggested that plaques be added to explain what Ianelli really meant, or that the Fountain be "balanced" by another sculpture, more clearly sympathetic to the Potowatomi.

In hindsight, it's clear that Ianelli should have studied the Friendship With Chief Baconrind statue if he wanted to avoid misinterpretations and bad vibes. But it's too late for that now. The controversy remains unresolved, and although explanatory plaques seem to be the least expensive (and thus most likely) compromise, you should probably plan your trip out here sooner, rather than later.

[RoadsideAmerica.com Team, 05/23/2007]

June 2011: Photo added.

Nearby Offbeat Places

The Committee (Face Full of Crotch)The Committee (Face Full of Crotch), Kalamazoo, MI - 2 mi.
Air ZooAir Zoo, Kalamazoo, MI - 5 mi.
Einstein Tosses a FrisbeeEinstein Tosses a Frisbee, Kalamazoo, MI - 4 mi.
In the region:
Giant Carved Statues, Syrup Queen, Vermontville, MI - 37 mi.

Latest Tips Across Roadside America

Catch up on the latest discoveries from the road.

Explore Thousands of Oddball Tourist Attractions!

Unique destinations in the U.S. and Canada are our special obsession. Use our attraction recommendation and maps to plan your next road trip.

March 20, 2018

My Sights

My Sights

Map and Plan Your Own Roadside Adventure

Try My Sights

Roadside America app
Roadside Presidents app

Michigan Latest Tips and Stories

Latest Visitor Tips

Sight of the Week

Sight of the Week

Mare Island Naval Shipyard Museum, Vallejo, California (Mar 19-25, 2018)

SotW Archive

USA and Canada Tips and Stories

More Sightings

Sightings. Arrives without warning. Leaves no burn marks. A free newsletter from RoadsideAmerica.com. Subscribe now!
RoadsideAmerica.com Hotel & Motel Finder

Special online rates for hotels & motels.

Book Online Now