American Indian mascots in Wisconsin

The use of American Indian mascots in Wisconsin is at the forefront this week, as the Wisconsin Association of School Boards considers a resolution to support ending the use of the mascots statewide.

WEAC has a long-standing belief that the use of American Indian mascots, nicknames, logos and symbols within our public schools is offensive, and has a detrimental effect on the educational achievement of American Indian students. WEAC President Ron “Duff” Martin strongly encouraged the WASB to adopt the resolution calling on all Wisconsin School Districts to retire any remaining Native American mascots, symbols and imagery.

“When you choose to use Native American mascots, symbols and imagery you choose to devalue Native people and you reduce Native people to imagery,” said Martin, WEAC’s first Native American president. “It is our responsibility in our public schools to make sure all kids feel valued and safe.”

WASB considers resolution

The WASB resolution being considered calls on all Wisconsin schools districts to retire any remaining Native American mascots, symbols and imagery. There are 29 high schools in Wisconsin that use Native American names or mascots.

Eighteen school districts have indicated their support the resolution, brought forward by Wausau School Board president Tricia Zunker. A Ho-Chunk woman who is running for Congress as a Democrat in the 7th Congressional District, Zunker said research shows psychological and educational harm from the mascots to both Native and non-Native students. 

One man’s experience

The WASB resolution comes at the same time as a media story outlining the efforts of a man who dressed as his school’s “Indian” mascot and now is working to stop the use of the mascots.

The story outlines the experience of Richie Plass, a Menominee and Stockbridge/Munsee, who grew up on the Menominee Indian Reservation. He was one of about 15 Native Americans in his school back in 1968. He dressed as the mascot three time, but the experience has stayed with him for the rest of his life. Read the story.

WEAC’s Stance

WEAC resolutions call for an end to American Indian mascots, nicknames, logos and symbols within our public schools. In 1997, WEAC supported the movement in Wisconsin led by Barbara Munson. Our efforts helped lead to change in 36 school districts, but there are 29 remaining.

“When using Native American mascots, symbols and imagery you promote misunderstandings and prejudice,” Martin said. “Our public schools can’t promote ethnic stereotyping. They need to be places where young people are nurtured, valued and inspired.”

Read the WEAC Resolution.