Dept. of Civil Rights Files Complaint Against Use of American Indian Mascots

By: Anthony Sabella Email
By: Anthony Sabella Email

The 'Big Red' name is a point of pride at Lansing Sexton High School.

The school's athletic teams have held that name since it first opened, but that could soon change, if the Michigan Department of Civil Rights gets its way.

The department filed a complaint, Friday morning, with the U.S. Department of Education, saying the use of American Indian-based mascots creates an 'unequal learning environment'.

"American Indian students perform at a lower level where American Indian imagery is present," said Leslee Fritz, Spokesperson for the Department of Civil Rights. "That stereotyping leads to questioning of self-image, self-esteem and we're seeing those challenges in the results."

Now, they're asking the federal government to make a law that would affect hundreds of schools across the country.

"No longer allowing schools to use American Indian mascots, images, nicknames, logos, etc," said Fritz.

The complaint lists 35 schools in Michigan, including Sexton, that would have to change their mascot names if it goes through.

Sexton Athletic Director Jarrod Beebe doesn't want to see that happen.

"I don't think it really makes too much sense," said Beebe, who is both of American Indian heritage and a graduate of the school. "To see it up there as a mascot, I'm appreciative of it."

On Friday, the Sexton basketball team played the Okemos High School Chiefs, who recently changed their own logo by officially removing an American Indian image. They are not one of the 35 schools on the complaint.

"We've worked through it as a community, made the decision and tried to focus on what we could use with 'Chiefs' as our logo," said Okemos Athletic Director, Bob Bullock.

The same could happen to Sexton.

The complaint does have a way for schools to avoid changing their mascots. If a name is locally significant and has the support of the tribe involved, schools can continue using names and images in a respectful way.

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  • by Chief No P C Location: Location on Feb 12, 2013 at 11:38 AM
    EMU did this in the late 80's against...that's right. AGAINST the request of the Huron tribe living in Oklahoma at the time. The tribal leader said it was the utmost irony that a group of old, white males on the university board would make that decision. Misplaced guilt!
  • by Anonymous on Feb 12, 2013 at 07:24 AM
    This isn't just high schools. It will affect colleges. And CMU settled this back in the 90's to keep the name. In fact they were asked to keep the name by the local Native Americans.
  • by Name Location: Location on Feb 11, 2013 at 02:27 PM
    To put it simple, these mascots were used both as a term of enderment and a sign of respect. You want to portray your team to be fear and respected by others. "Go Indians!!" has a bit more respect than saying "Go Pink Ladies!!"
  • by Anonymous on Feb 11, 2013 at 08:57 AM
    the Michigan Dept of Civil Rights needs to "get a life" and worry about real problems. If school mascots are their highest priority, the State must be doing pretty good.
  • by RT Location: Lansing on Feb 11, 2013 at 06:00 AM
    It's nice to see people commenting on this issue with the frame of mind that rejects the politically incorrect nonsense of this topic.
  • by john Location: Lansing on Feb 10, 2013 at 07:59 PM
    I would like to see this "study",that Mr Fritz is quoting. None of the NATIVE AMERICANS I know,or am related to,object to these mascots,and,in fact,our ancestors decorated shields/wikiups,etc.,with likenesses of people and animals,as a sign of strength! Also,Mr. Fritz We prefer the term"NATIVE AMERICANS" to American INDIANS. If you're going to file a complaint of discriminatory logos,etc.,you should KNOW what you're talking about !
  • by Name Location: Location on Feb 9, 2013 at 03:45 PM
    SO does this ban also include any other group that represent mankind. The viking, giants, knights, trojans, pirates, raiders, cowboys and all importantly the spartans.
  • by Liz Location: Ann Arbor on Feb 9, 2013 at 02:26 PM
    So exactly what kind of image are we having problems with? More specifically, is it that something portraying a rallying point to inspire players to perform their best somehow running counter to the whole “Mafia/Tong” image inspired by the casinos? Whatever.
  • by Elaine Location: Location on Feb 9, 2013 at 06:49 AM
    Does this mean that any mascot that refers to a group should be eliminated? How about Spartans or Vikings? This refers to groups in the past but maybe the Civil Rights office will want to elimate these. How about Pirates; there are still Pirates especially off the coast of Africa; maybe they shouldn't use this mascot either. I think our tax dollars could be spent better than going after school mascots. Utterly ridulous.
  • by Name Location: Location on Feb 9, 2013 at 04:48 AM
    Ms. Fritz, clean up your own back yard first. The State of Michgan is the worst offender of civil rights in the state. From the Governor to his Directors, Managers and Supervisors are the most corrupt people, using the peoples tax dollars to defend their abusive actions. Give us a break on the PC!?!?!?
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