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Last Updated: 10/31/2017
 

 Article of Interest - Cultural Issues

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Bridges4Kids LogoState Board Charges into American Indian Mascot/Logo Issue
MIRS, June 26, 2003

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In a resolution adopted unanimously, the State Board of Education today strongly recommended the “elimination of American Indian mascots, nicknames, logos, fight songs, insignias, antics and team descriptions by all Michigan schools” and directed that the resolution be sent to the Governor, all legislators and all school districts.

The resolution was adopted, in part, over concern by some American Indian tribes, organizations, state and local officials, and private citizens that the use of American Indian mascots are offensive and have a detrimental effect on the educational achievement of American Indian students.

Civil Right Commission (CRC) member Valarie SIMMONS told Board members the problem encompasses a broader ranger of off-reservation issues

“It’s not just about oppressive, stereotypical logos and mascots,” Simmons said. “It’s about the overall education landscape including MEAP, dropouts and curriculum bias.”

Larry BETZ, staff attorney for the CRC, said the dropout rate among American Indians is among the highest (89 percent) and the failure rate on MEAP tests is twice as high as among white students.

Board member Eileen WEISER questioned whether the resolution should refer to Native Americans rather than American Indians to match federal language.

Donna BUDNICK of the CRC staff and former director of the state Indian Affairs Commission, said “either way you’re right, either way you’re wrong” explaining a difference of views among the tribal communities.

After some discussion and testimony, the Board decided to add an asterisk after the words American Indian in the resolution and directed staff to develop a footnote at the bottom of the resolution “educationally” describing the history behind the use of American Indian and Native American.

The action follows a similar resolution adopted by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission in May 2003, encouraging all school districts “to ensure that instructional materials, course works, policies, and procedures are respectful of cultural differences and enhance cultural competency, and are void of stereotypic language and representations,”

The United States Civil Rights Commission adopted a resolution in April, 2001, calling for an end to the use of American Indian images and team names by schools.

Jim FARRAR, a Native American from Milan, told the Board the resolution is a step in the right direction, but if there isn’t more teeth, it won’t do any good. “The school officials will just pitch it in the waste basket.”
   

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