OT - State files federal complaint against schools with Native American mascots

Submitted by Cold War on February 11th, 2013 at 7:44 PM

A complaint filed Friday by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights is asking the federal government to step in and prohibit the use of American Indian mascots and imagery in K-12 schools across the state.

The department filed the complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. The complaint cites 35 Michigan K-12 school districts — including Clinton and Tecumseh — responsible for “alleged discrimination.”

The schools are known as the Clinton Redskins and the Tecumseh Indians.

The complaint says research now shows the use of those mascots and imagery causes “actual harm” to American Indian students by lowering self-esteem and impacting student achievement...


Mod edit: I think most viewpoints were heard and there was a good debate on some topics, but we've hit a point of no return with the political line. JGB


snarling wolverine

February 11th, 2013 at 7:51 PM ^

The complaint says research now shows the use of those mascots and imagery causes “actual harm” to American Indian students by lowering self-esteem and impacting student achievement...

So is the reverse true - when schools drop Native American imagery, does it increase student achievement? Is EMU's Native American graduation rate up since the switch?

snarling wolverine

February 11th, 2013 at 8:21 PM ^

What do you mean, "that's not how research works?"  What is the point of this if they're not going to track student performance after the mascot change?  They've got plenty of experimental groups already - there are many schools that have already changed their mascots.  They are flat-out stating that "actual harm" is being done by having these mascots, so they should be able to document the healing that should go on when they're dropped.




snarling wolverine

February 11th, 2013 at 8:37 PM ^

Let's set aside abstractions for a minute here.  The state is specificially allegeding that the use of Native American mascots - alone - causes "actual harm" to Native American student performance.  You don't think it's important for them to follow up and track these students in the absence of this supposed stressor?

I don't really care about these nicknames one way or the other.  I just find this specific claim by the state to be dubious, and I'd love to see their methodology.



swan flu

February 11th, 2013 at 8:44 PM ^

I didn't say that I don't think it's important. You may have assumed that was my position. I have a background in research science so I try to correct false assumptions regarding research. I apologize if I came off as accusative or mean-spirited.

Edit- I'd also like to see the state's evidence for such a claim, it seems pretty strong, so they'd have to have some strong evidence to support it. It does seem dubious at first glance, you are right in that.

Wolverine Devotee

February 11th, 2013 at 7:58 PM ^

I love how these assholes are worrying about things as trivial as this when there are much bigger problems going on.

My old high school is probably going to give in and change their name. Shame since they've been around longer than the state of Michigan has been in the union. 

We saw this happen to the Univ. of North Dakota. Probably the #2 in terms of greatest hockey programs next to Michigan, with arguably the coolest names around. The Fighting Sioux. An alum donated an arena to them and one of the conditions was he would do it only if they'd keep the name. Welp, he donated the arena, and the Feds made them change their name. 

UND has no official nickname. Just a green ND now. 

You could make an argument the fighting irish is "offensive". 


February 11th, 2013 at 8:10 PM ^

1) You think Fighting Sioux is a "cool name" because it sounds cool. It is also pretty offensive to the Lakota tribe.

2) The "Feds" didn't make them change the name; the NCAA threatened their post-season eligibility, and in a state-wide vote more than 2/3 of the residents voted to nuke the nickname.

3) People always bring up the "Fighting Irish" thing, as if the history with those two groups is even REMOTELY similar. My Irish ancestors faced some employment discrimination. My Native American ancestors faced some "move over here and/or die" discrimination.

snarling wolverine

February 11th, 2013 at 8:27 PM ^

1) You think Fighting Sioux is a "cool name" because it sounds cool. It is also pretty offensive to the Lakota tribe.

Is this true? From what I remember, there were two tribes concerned in the matter. One voted in favor of keeping the nickname and the other never held a vote for bureaucratic reasons. I don't believe the tribes themselves spearheaded the change.

Also, regarding the statewide vote, that came after the NCAA made it clear it wasn't bluffing about stripping the school of hosting rights. The name seemed to be popular in North Dakota before the NCAA got involved.

turd ferguson

February 11th, 2013 at 8:27 PM ^

I'm gonna go ahead and score this round for BiSB.

If I can add one counterargument, yes, there are much bigger problems in the world, but this was filed by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, and this is the type of thing that is their responsibility. I'm sure they'd have solved Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and partisan gridlock in Congress if it weren't for this distraction.


February 11th, 2013 at 8:31 PM ^

Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't a school mascot supposed to be a source of pride? What is offensive about naming yourselves after a group of people? According to your logic any group that has ever been persecuted should not have a mascot named after them, simply because it may remind some of the descendants of said group of their ancestors' persecution.


February 11th, 2013 at 8:55 PM ^

Don't just take this as cranky old man talk and I know U.S. government - Native American relations have been miserable at least, but is it really denegrating their history for a bunch of 6th graders to be named the Souix?  What about the pseudo-Boy Scouts with the Indian names?  Hell, Florida State and the Seminole tribe actually get along quite nicely.  To me this just seems like a bunch of snooty academics perceiving some imaginary evils where there are none.  If a tribe were to approach a school and ask that the names be changed, that would be a different story.

And I don't know what "group that did the persecuting" means... I'd imagine that a large segment of the posters on this board didn't have ancestors who lived in the U.S. pre-1900, so are we to blame as well?  Sorry, but the PC stuff just irks me.  Reasonable politeness is fine, but when it gets to the point where the potential for offense is enough to require change, it appears simply rediculous.



February 11th, 2013 at 9:06 PM ^

in a different comment in this crazy thread:  I'm okay with team names for specific tribes as long as there is the consent of said tribe to use that name.  Hence I am okay with the Seminoles or Chippewas since those people are.  What I'm not okay with is a name like the Redskins, which is a racist term that is on a par with the n-word in historical context.  Racism has no place in sports.

gustave ferbert

February 11th, 2013 at 9:35 PM ^

as a control group, they should track the performance of Irish American kids and their performance after attending Notre Dame (which as you know is French, and not Irish).  

If there self image suffers then there is consistency.  Plus I would like to see that School in South bend to stop exploiting my people. 


February 11th, 2013 at 9:49 PM ^

Even if the Indians liked the idea of having a school mascot named after them (or a college, just look up the SDSU Aztec fight from the late 90s) all it takes is one guy/girl to say they are offended and that dude/chick is going to get propped up by some pro bono to make a point.

This shit will never end because as long as somebody is offended, sabres will rattle somewhere that we must "do something" so no one is hurt. I can see other names being considered offensive, take any name associated with violence or crime:

  • Marauders
  • Vikings
  • Bandits
  • Pirates

And so on and so on. It will be done in the name of saving the children from the next Sandy Hook I'm sure. Oy vey.


February 11th, 2013 at 8:51 PM ^

This isn't exactly the same, but always causes me to chuckle when team/school mascots come up:

I live in Washington State, on the East side, my wife has some family that live in Central Idaho (I know, keep all Idaho jokes to yourself).  In the town of Orofino, one of the towns premier employers is a mental institution... The highschool is located relatively close to said institution and here's the kicker, their mascot is the 'Maniacs' complete with the logo that is a cartoonish crazy person.

I understand the threat of people being offended and trying, in some way, to make amends for past wrongs, but when is the voice of the offended maniac ever going to be heard?! 


February 11th, 2013 at 9:41 PM ^

but actually it's not. Racism against Native Americans is pretty rampant in North Dakota and among fans of the Fighting Sioux. I don't get it, myself, but it's pretty blatant. (BTW: I've been up there, and I have two friends who are faculty and staff at UND).

[EDIT: for clarification, I'm responding to the comment by evenyoubrutus]


February 11th, 2013 at 9:50 PM ^

This is a pretty accurate read on what I saw and heard in ND:

In North Dakota, people went to the polls on June 12 to vote whether to retire the “Fighting Sioux” mascot. However that vote turns out, it may be a temporary decision. A group called the Committee for Understanding and Respect has been circulating petitions for a second referendum that would change the state constitution to declare the University of North Dakota (UND) forever be known as the Fighting Sioux. In years past, supporters of this mascot have produced t-shirts with what appears to be an Indian having sex with a buffalo. Nothing helps make your point like a little sexual marginalization.

All of this requires a bit of a history lesson.In the year 2000, the board of regents at UND voted to retire the offensive mascot. In stepped their biggest alumnus, financially speaking, Ralph Englestad. Mr. Englestad, who had just donated 35 million dollars to build a new hockey arena, immediately fired off a letter to the University president stating he’d pull all funding from the school forever. In short order, the school reversed its stand on the mascot. Money talks, and sometimes it apparently screams and hollers. 

Who is, or was Ralph Englestad you ask? (He passed away in 2002) He was a Las Vegas casino owner who collected German, and specifically Hitler memorabilia. He was fond of throwing Adolph Hitler birthday parties. He had a painting of himself in a Gestapo uniform with “Love, Adolph” written in the corner. Yes, this drips with gargantuan amounts of pure unadulterated irony. And yet, it does follow a pattern if you care to connect the dots.


February 11th, 2013 at 9:59 PM ^

Background, history, etc should have no impact or bearing on present day discrimination.  Presenting an Irsh person as a short red-haired rapscallion in a green suit is flat out racist and VERY offensive to a lot of Irish.  But what you are saying is because they were only partially discriminated (NINA for example), that they are just going to have to sit back and deal with it.

Discrimination is discrimination and should be equally intolerable regardless of history.  

snarling wolverine

February 11th, 2013 at 7:58 PM ^

The NCAA won't allow schools with Native American mascots to host official events unless they have specific tribal permission.  CMU has obtained that from the Chippewa tribe, so they should be okay.  (EMU apparently never bothered to ask the Hurons how they felt.)


swan flu

February 11th, 2013 at 7:55 PM ^

I wish I cold embed the entire episode of South Park that tackles racism pretty tactfully.

To paraphrase it, Token gets offended by something and Stan doesn't get it. Stan tries the entire episode to understand It and ultimately comes to the realization that he "doesn't get it, and never could" he tells this to Token and Token says "you get It."


February 11th, 2013 at 9:35 PM ^

What do you call the Africans who captured, enslaved, and then sold Africans to Muslims and Europeans? What do you call the Hutu who butchered the Tutis? What do you call the Khmer Rouge? Or Stalin? Or Mao? Or Hitler? What do you call the Mayans who ritually slaughtered countless members of neighboring tribes?

Racism is no different than any other form of oppression the world has seen. It's just that we are now far more sensitive to the subject of prejudice and oppression then generations before us. We perceive as unique behaviors that are not unique.   

More to your point, few of  of us today living in the US have little concept of what it was like in Dachau or in the Jim Crow South, much less the antebellum South. Sure, we can read of Tulsas and Rosewoods, of the Middle Passage, of the naked barbarism of slavery itself. But we can never understand it.  Some want to try link modern America with the past, but the racial prejudice today is far different then what Jackie Robinson suffered through. Sure, it still stings emotionally, but there are no mobs of racist breaking into jails to lynch black men nor are white men torturing and killing 14 year-old black teenagers for daring to--allegedly--whistle at a white woman.  None of that exists today. Instead we have debates over perceptions of a justice system imposed Jim Crow and allegedly racially discriminatory Disney characters.

The fact is most of America "doesn't understand" racism. The word is so often bandied about that it has become a catchall word for what is really prejudice or bigotry.  We now have conflated the insane hatred of a Byron de la Beckwith with the bigoted bloviations of a Rush Limbaugh.   


February 11th, 2013 at 8:02 PM ^

For the board's information, here (I know, Free Press, but it had the list) is the list of schools specifically cited in the complaint  and the county in which they reside:



-Brother Rice Warriors (
Oakland County)

Valley Big Reds (

Huron Chiefs (Wayne)

Chiefs (Wayne)

-Utica Chieftains (

Lake Western Warriors (

-Woodhaven Brownstown Warriors (Wayne)

Schools from across the rest of the state

-Athens Indians (
Calhoun County)

Bay City
Western Warriors (Bay)

-Belding Redskins (

-Camden-Frontier Redskins (Hillsdale)

-Capac Chiefs (St. Clair)

-Cheboygan Chiefs (Cheboygan)

-Chesaning Indians (

Redskins (Lenawee)

-Dowagiac Chieftains (Cass)

Braves (Delta)

Grass Lake Warriors (Jackson)

Indians (Van Buren)

-Kinde-North Huron Warriors (Huron)

Sexton Big Reds (Ingham)

-Marquette Redmen/Redettes (

-Morley-Stanwood Mohawks (Mecosta)

-Newberry Indians (Luce)

-Paw Paw Redskins (Van Buren)

Port Huron
Big Reds (St. Clair)

-Remus Chippewa Hills Warriors (Mecosta)

Redskins (Sanilac)

-Saranac Redskins (

-Saugatuck Indians (Allegan)

-Tawas (City) Area Braves (Iosco)

-Tecumseh Indians (Lenawee)

-Tekonsha Indians (Calhoun)

-White Cloud Indians (Newaygo)

-White Pigeon Chiefs (
St. Joseph

In addition, here is the complaint, and their supporting documentation