Why keep debating Indian logo issue?


HIGH SCHOOL NICKNAMES IS an issue that just doesn’t want to go away, and that’s the way it is when opposing sides staunchly disagree with the claims of the other side.

But unlike people not being able to find a decent job or pay for health care, what high schools call their sports teams isn’t nearly as critical an issue. And that’s why no matter where you stand on the matter, the cleanest solution is for schools with nicknames and logos that raise concerns from American Indians be changed.

The issue is back in the news after the Legislature passed a bill raising the threshold for forcing schools to abandon Indian nicknames. Previously, all it took was one person to object to Tony Evers, state superintendent of public instruction. Evers, a longstanding opponent of Indian nicknames, then simply ordered the school to change the name or face penalties. That’s why Osseo-Fairchild’s teams are now known as the Thunder rather than the Chieftains.

The new threshold, should Gov. Scott Walker sign the bill, would require a petition with signatures equal to at least 10 percent of the school’s enrollment. The petition then would be reviewed by officials in the state Department of Administration, not Evers.

At the center of the dispute is the Mukwonago school district not far from Milwaukee, which has refused to drop its Indian nickname.

Those opposing Indian nicknames, logos and mascots say they are demeaning and foster negative stereotypes of Native Americans that harm the self-esteem of American Indian students and belittle tribal traditions.

Those supporting local choice in the issue claim that they have been sensitive to opponents’ concerns, in many cases eliminating the ``dancing Indian’’ mascots and using depictions on logos that are culturally accurate and serve as symbols of pride and respect. Those opposing forced change further note that there are other government references to American Indian history, including such counties as Chippewa, Oneida, Sauk, Menominee and Winnebago.

Both sides make strong, legitimate arguments. No one wants their culture being diminished to chants at a sporting event. But those trying to do it right and use the nickname as a positive representation of Native American culture resent anyone calling them racists.

But changing the nickname isn’t admitting defeat. It’s simply acknowledging that something as insignificant in the big picture as a school nickname can be easily changed, and that if some feel slighted, it’s not worth the hassle.

The Marquette University Golden Eagles were once the Warriors; the UW-La Crosse Eagles were once the Indians. Other examples abound.

Once the change was made, life went on, people still attended sporting events, and a divisive issue was solved with a painless fix.

The question isn’t who’s right and who’s wrong? The question is whether the never-ending debate and animosity is worth it. — Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, Nov. 21

At issue:
High school Indian nicknames
Bottom line:
Not worth the debate

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