Tribes slam use of ‘redskins’

Pass resolution condeming use of race-based names, mascots, imagery in Michigan schools

BARAGA — Some Michigan sports teams may have to change their names, if a tribal effort to preclude using the term Redskins is successful.

Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) President Chris Swartz told the tribal council Saturday the initiative gained ground at a May meeting of United Tribes in Sault Ste. Marie.

“We approved a resolution condemning the use of the term ‘redskins’ in Michigan schools and (supported) the Michigan State Board of Education superintendent authority to discipline any Michigan school that uses race-based sports names and associated imagery and activities in a manner harmful to Native American students,” Swartz wrote in his monthly report for May, which he read to the council at its meeting Saturday.

“These logos are having a detrimental effect on our children,” Swartz said.

“The derogatory term ‘redskins’ degrades and diminishes Native people throughout the history of the United States as documented in study after study and related by personal experiences of Native people in Indian Country and beyond,” Swartz wrote. “The negative effects on our children and our Native communities are long lasting and detrimental to the positive self-esteem necessary to maintain the high quality of life that is the goal of thoughtful people everywhere.

“There are 45 high schools in Michigan using mascots, logos or nicknames including six in the Upper Peninsula,” Swartz wrote. “What can we do to support Native people and their efforts to change attitudes and the use of stereotypes?”

Swartz suggested people consult with student government representatives and write their principals, superintendents and boards of education.

Swartz said at least one Michigan lawmaker is sympathetic to tribal concerns.

“One of the guests (at the United Tribes meeting) was the honorable Jack Bergman, congressman Michigan District One,” Swartz wrote of the Republican from Watersmeet who spent a day with KBIC tribal officials earlier in the year. “He advised that he is willing to work with the Indian tribes in his district.”