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LUHS Board Takes A Bye On Resolution To Ban Use Of Native American Mascots

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MINOCQUA – A move to ban the use of Native American mascots and nicknames by Wisconsin’s public schools didn’t garner any support at last Monday’s (Sept. 23) meeting of the Lakeland Union High School District board of education.

The Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB), which holds its annual meeting in January, will take up a resolution calling upon the Legislature to require school districts to retire Native American mascots. The Wausau School District, which does not have any of its schools using the controversial imagery, is sponsoring the resolution.

Sarah Kemp, the board’s WASB representative, brought the matter to the board’s attention. “I wanted a conversation at the board level to see if ... the board would be interested in passing this resolution as well.” It was not listed as an action item on the meeting agenda so no vote was taken. However, there was no open support for the resolution. In fact, just the opposite. “I think it should be left up to the individual school district,” said board member Barb Peck. “I don’t think it’s the state’s position, or the Wausau School District’s position, or any other district’s position to tell us what to do or what not to do.” Language in the proposed resolution says that the continued use of Native images “is a form of discrimination, oppression and racism.”

Among the controversial images are those depicting Native American heads, spears, feathers and arrowheads. According to a Milwaukee Journal story that was also distributed, about 30 school districts out of 421 in Wisconsin currently use Native American mascots and imagery. “We (LUHS) are not one of them,” Kemp said. Lakeland uses the nickname, the “Thunderbirds.”

Neighboring Lac du Flambeau Elementary School District is known as “the home of the Warriors.” Lakeland board member Emily Hallstrom wondered if the resolution, if enacted, would affect that public school’s mascot and nickname. Lakeland board member Gary Smith said his LdF school board and community are comfortable using the Warriors nickname. “My input from the community, and what I gather, for us, we’re Native so we can call ourselves that (Warriors)” Nearly all the students at LdF School are Native Americans. “I don’t think the Thunderbirds (logo) is offensive at all,” Smith said, adding that the attitude toward Native American culture at Lakeland has changed the past five or six years, including allowing drums at graduation ceremonies and other cultural-sensitive observances. “I think the tribe should make that decision (on use of Native American symbols),” he concluded, “not the state senator who has never been on he reservation, (and who) doesn’t know anyone.”

Some communities have balked at removing Native American imagery used by their athletic teams and other groups. Others have done so completely, while still others have reduced the predominance of Native American symbols. This fall the measure goes to WASB’s Policy & Resolution Committee and ultimately to its Delegate Assembly, or annual convention, according to the Milwaukee Journal.

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