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Okemos school district drops Chiefs nickname

OKEMOS (AP) — A Lansing-area school district named for a Native American leader is dropping its Chiefs nickname, following similar changes at other Michigan schools.

The Okemos school board voted Monday to stop using Chiefs or Chieftains and pick a new nickname in a few years. The switch could cost more than $400,000 to remove the name and image from buildings, uniforms and other school properties, the Lansing State Journal reported.

Okemos is an unincorporated community in Meridian Township. It is named for Chief Okemos, who lived in the area and led the Saginaw Chippewas. He died in 1858.

Deborah Guthrie, who serves as township clerk, designed the school logo, which is an ‘O’ with ‘Chiefs’ running through it. She said the nickname honored the chief.

“I appreciate history and I appreciate the truth, not eliminating history,” Guthrie said last month.

School board member Katie Cavanaugh said the district isn’t erasing its history.

“This is a learning moment, a teaching moment that we need to use continuously and not just for this group of students who will be impacted,” she said.

In 2020, the Paw Paw district in southwestern Michigan voted to end the Redskins nickname. The Belding Redskins in western Michigan became the Black Knights in 2016.

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