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Tribal leaders call for change after Wausau West teacher dresses up in Native American costume

Offensive Native American Costume
Greg Johnson Facebook
A teacher at Wausau West High School dressed up in a stereotypical Native American costume as part of a history lesson.

Tribal leaders and representatives from across central Wisconsin spoke out yesterday after a teacher at Wausau West High School dressed in a stereotypical Native American costume as part of a history lesson.

Greg Johnson, a member of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, said this situation started when his son, a student at the school, took a photo of the costume and sent it to him.

He said he was outraged when he received that message, and worried about what kind of impact this will have on students.

"There's a snowball effect when this happens. It happens at a young age," Johnson said. "You grow up with these ignorant thoughts and ignorant ways and our children are subject to that."

Other leaders called for a review of the curriculum at Wausau Schools and encouraged the district to look to tribal leaders for help.

"They should engage tribal leaders from different tribes to try to figure out how to strengthen the curriculum. They should engage the Wisconsin Indian Education Association," said Tricia Zunker, associate justice for the Ho-Chunk Supreme Court.

The Wausau School District issued a statement on Monday.

“The Wausau School District’s mission is to advance student learning, achievement, and success,” the statement reads. “That’s why work is beginning in the District to review curriculum, and its delivery, to ensure it is respectful to all cultures and heritages. With these changes, the District will be providing ongoing professional learning for all staff. We are committed to ensuring all students thrive and there will be positive changes."

Erin Gottsacker joined WXPR in December 2020. As a Morning Edition host and reporter, Erin reports on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.
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