Wisconsin Indian-themed Mascots Start DisappearingPosted: July 28, 2010
In a story yesterday on the Fox affiliate website, Osseo-Fairchild was ordered to remove it’s “Chieftain” mascot within one year or face fines of $1,000 per day. This is the first case to be decided after Wisconsin became the first state to ban race themed mascots this past May.
Coming from a town in Wisconsin that also has a native themed mascot (the Osceola Chieftains, if you wanted to know), this law had no small amount of personal kick to it, even though I am now of Native descent myself (well, a small percentage on my grandmother’s side, but I’ll ignore that for now). Northern Wisconsin has a strong heritage of European/Native interactions and many of the northwoods towns reflect this in their names: Ashwaubenon, Chippewa Falls, heck, even my own town of Osceola. When many schools adopted their mascot, it was based out of feelings of respect, not hate, and I KNOW that this was the case in Osceola.
The order notes that the district doesn’t have the permission of any federally recognized American Indian tribe to use the name or logo
I believe (not 100% sure, but I remember having this conversation with my school administrators) that Osceola has this permission, in writing, on an annual basis but I could be wrong there. Regardless, I think this law could have very unintentional consequences.
1) Who is going to pay for these schools to change their names? Often signs, clothing contracts, all district paperwork (letterheads, pens, etc.), sports jerseys all need to be paid for and this money is coming from these local districts. In Wisconsin, localities pay a lot towards local schools so this is a large financial burden for smaller communities that need to do a lot to change.
2) What about other mascots derived from hate or fear based names? The Irish were a group mocked and derided by all manner of Europeans until the second World War (in Wisconsin, long after that…) but yet the Notre Dame Fighting Irish still exist as the stereotypical Irishman who cannot control his temper. What about characterizations of our Scandinavian heritage? The Vikings could hardly be deemed as a term of respect. And finally, look at our own Wisconsin Badgers. We all know that Badgers refers to the original Welsh miners in the state who lived in holes in the ground so the wealthier Germans and English called them “Badgers”. Is the UW expected to change its name based on the mascot being created out of a mocking of a minority? Or is it irrelevant because that group is no longer a minority?
There is a clear distinction in my mind between a symbol of respect and pride, and one of hateful prejudice. Osceola, Wisconsin was founded and dedicated to the memory of the brave Seminole Chief Osceola, and the “Chieftains” was chosen to commemorate the native allies of our early town that helped the settlers survive the harsh climate, and to commemorate Osceola himself. I do not see why a school/community cannot honor and commemorate a culture in this way when the term itself is one of respect.
The Redmen, Redskins, Tomahawks, and other vestiges of war like savagery should probably go and that is legitimate. However, I don’t see the harm in non-war affiliated names that are meant as a term of respect.
Please post your thoughts on the matter, and I’ll respond as I’m able.