Wisconsin schools with Native mascots get letter from tribal leaders | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

GREEN BAY – Tribal leaders from across the state and country this week sent a formal letter to Wisconsin school officials of the more than two dozen districts that have refused to retire Native American race-based mascots or logos.

The letter also encouraged school officials to discuss the issue with tribal leaders about why these mascots are harmful and should be discontinued.

“Out of respect for tribal sovereignty, we ask that you heed the voices of tribal leaders representing hundreds of Tribal Nations and the organizations that serve their citizens when assessing where Indian Country stands on this issue,” the letter read. “To that end, we invite you to begin a dialogue with us to learn about contemporary Tribal Nations and Native peoples and why these mascots degrade us, misrepresent who we are and dismiss the many important contributions we have made, and continue to make, to this country.”

Among the signatories of the official letter were Ron Corn Sr., chairman of the Menominee Nation; Shannon Holsey, president of the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Nation; and Bryan Bainbridge, CEO of the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council, which represents all 11 federal recognized tribal nations in Wisconsin and one in Michigan.

At the national level, Larry Wright Jr., executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, the largest and oldest organization representing tribal nations in the U.S., also signed the letter, along with Tesia Zientek, president of the National Indian Education Association.

Several leaders of local educational institutions also signed the letter, including Dr. Lisa Poupart, director of First Nations education at UW-Green Bay; Christopher Caldwell, president of the College of Menominee Nation; and James Pete, president of the Wisconsin Indian Education Association.

Barb Munson (Oneida), who heads the Wisconsin Indian Education Association’s Mascot Taskforce and who has been leading the call to retire the mascots in Wisconsin schools since the 1990s, also signed the letter.

Munson has had some success over the years with dozens of school districts since retiring their mascots.

But 26 school districts in Wisconsin still use Native American race-based mascots and/or logos.

Logo of the Wisconsin Indian Education Association

The letter points to recent national events casting a spotlight on the issue, including the new names of professional sports teams, including the Cleveland Guardians and the Washington Commanders.

The letter also provides links to decades of several studies and social science research showing these mascots have serious psychological, social and cultural harm for Native people.

“The intolerance and harm promoted by these mascots, logos, and associated fan behaviors and school traditions perpetuate negative stereotypes and contribute to a disregard for the personhood of America’s first peoples,” the letter read.

The letter also pointed out that tribal leaders in Wisconsin have been calling for a retirement of the mascots since the first State of the Tribes Address in 2005.

The signatories also offered to assist school officials on how to properly educate students about Indigenous people.

“Moreover, know that we are committed to working with you to expand and strengthen the curriculum your schools teach Wisconsin students about Tribal Nations and peoples, particularly the undersigned Nations,” the letter read.

A special response email address has been set up at mascots@ncai.org.

Source: Wisconsin schools with Native mascots get letter from tribal leaders

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