Wisconsin Tribes Speak Out Against Offensive Sports Mascots

GREEN BAY Wis.

Ahead of a state hearing this week on racially insensitive sports mascots, members of Wisconsin tribes decried the Washington Redskins’ name and logo as the NFL team played the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Sunday.

“The consensus is that the most egregious violations are with this name, Redskins, because it has the ugliest history,” said Clif Morton, a New London resident who organized a conference this weekend in Oneida addressing race-based stereotypes and their related psychological effects.

“It was always used as a disparaging term. It represented genocide of whole tribes. It represents the worst of the worst.”

Richie Plass, a member of the Menominee and Stockbridge-Munsee tribes, remembers when he was typecast as the mascot of his high school then the Shawano Indians almost 30 years ago.

Since then, many schools have moved away from using native American mascots, but Plass wonders whether the action only masks the broader problem.

“I think they’ll change, but I’m not sure the mindset will change,” he said, referring to attitudes he said run deeper than the superficial use of names.

Plass and other activists planned to protest Washington’s name and mascot, which they say undermines native Americans with hurtful stereotypes.

“When I look at (Washington’s mascot) Chief Zee, I don’t feel any pride,” he said. “Dancing and drumming are things that are sacred to us. How can this be showing us honor?”

This week, the state Senate Education Committee is scheduled to hear testimony on a bill that would allow residents to protest the “use of an ethnic name, nickname, logo or mascot by filing a complaint with the state superintendent of public instruction.”

State Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, called the issue one of respect.

“If we look at mascots as part of the educational process, what sort of message is being sent by having them racially derived?” said Hansen, a co-sponsor of the bill.

From professional teams such as the Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves, to schools in Kewaunee and Mishicot that still call themselves the Indians, native American names and mascots remain common. About 40 public high schools still use American Indian-related names.

Other high schools, such as Seymour and Shawano, adopted new names more than 10 years ago after the state Department of Public Instruction urged schools across the state to drop American Indian mascots and logos.

Information from: Green Bay Press-Gazette, http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com

— Associated Press



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