2 schools in West Michigan to drop their Native American mascots

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Two K-12 school districts in western Michigan have announced plans to remove their Native American mascots and images, including one of three schools in the state that still use the term Redskins, considered the most offensive to them. Native American communities.

Saranac Community Schools in Ionia County and Hartford Public Schools in Van Buren County have decided to withdraw their respective Redskins and Indians team names, according to announcements from both districts last week.

Hartford Superintendent Kelly Millin said the decision to remove the mascot from the district was made in partnership with members of the Pokagon Band from Potawatomi.

“We appreciate our long-standing partnership with the Pokagon group of Potawatomi; and, as we learn more about social and emotional needs, both parties agree that there is a need to re-examine our current mascot and our school logo, ”Millin wrote in a joint letter with the board chair. of Hartford Education, Mike Banic.

“What once served as a representation of culture no longer carries the same point of pride for all who see it, and we have been asked to change our Native American logo and mascot.”

Millin said the district will retire its mascot by the end of the 2021-22 school year and work on plans for a new logo in the coming month, the superintendent said.

Saranac Community Schools also plans to phase out its Redskins mascot, the district said in a Facebook post.

Saranac’s board voted unanimously to “respectfully remove the Redskin mascot” at a board meeting on Oct. 27, according to the post. Superintendent Jason Smith was tasked with creating a search committee to select a new mascot and set a timeline for the search process.

“The Board of Directors looks forward to the enthusiasm of the selection process, working closely with students, staff and the community,” reads on Facebook.

Saranac is one of three Michigan school districts that still use the Redskins as a mascot. The other two schools are Camden-Frontier Schools in Hillsdale County and Sandusky Community Schools in Sanilac County.

Redskins is an offensive name “used as an insulting and contemptuous term for an American Indian”, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition.

RELATED: Dozens of Michigan schools still use Native American slurs and imagery

Smith previously told MLive that the school board has been in discussions for some time to move away from the Redskins name, particularly after the NFL football team in Washington announced their name change ahead of the 2020 season.

In addition to consulting with members of the Pokagon Band from Potawatomi about a potential name change, the district also sent out a survey last year to gauge feedback from the community, students and alumni, Smith said. .

Smith said Saranac’s use of the current mascot originated around the 1930s and was chosen because the small village along the Grand River was a thoroughfare for Native American tribes.

Although the district still retains the name, changes to the imagery used in Saranac public schools began in the early 1990s, Smith said.

“They’re going slowly, not trying to squeeze anything,” Smith told MLive. “Either way, we just want to make sure we take our time and do our due diligence. “

Today, the images that the school used to use have been replaced by “Saranac”. The neighborhood website always displays a letter ‘S’ with headdress feathers.

Dozens of Kindergarten to Grade 12 school districts across the state continue to use Native American mascots and imagery, despite growing calls for these schools to rebrand.

Hartford is one of eight Michigan K-12 schools that call themselves Indians, including Athens, Chesaning, Newberry, Tahquamenon, Tecumseh, Tekonsha, and White Cloud.

Last year, Saugatuck Public Schools announced that they would drop their team’s name as “Indians” in an effort to promote a learning culture that values ​​diversity, equity and education. ‘inclusion. After a months-long research process, the district landed on “Trailblazers” as a new team name and mascot.

RELATED: Saugatuck Public Schools Land on New Mascot to Replace Controversial ‘Indians’ Name

The Hartford superintendent said changing his mascot doesn’t mean old memories should be forgotten.

“We have all shared many great times in Hartford Public Schools and look forward to sharing more in the years to come,” Millan wrote in the letter to the community. “Instead, we’ll team up again to find a mascot and logo that better embraces our community and our vision. All students should be proud of their school.

“While it may be sad to see something disappear that has been such a proud part of our school, this is our opportunity to rethink ourselves for the good of all. “

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