What’s In a Name?

Perhaps the small town of Kewaunee, Wisconsin can answer the above query. A town of only 2,745 people have decided to change the name of the local High School Football Team. Under a new state law whose purpose is to eliminate race based nick names, mascots, and logos, the Kewaunee School District has decided to drop the name, “Indians” which had been in use since 1936.

No easy tasks as old habits die hard and normally the only people who welcome change are babies with wet diapers.  To help things along, students and community residents were asked to come up with other suggestions. This law is the first of its kind and it allows school district communities to make complaints about race based names that may be considered offensive. Districts can debate that a name isn’t discriminatory with a tribe’s approval. One can only wonder this was not thought of initially. Back in 2005, the NCAA prohibited the use of First Nation’s Peoples nicknames, mascots, and imagery during championship events.  Wisconsin’s law is the first of its kind.

Right here in Asheville, Mr. Monroe Gilmore, who is the coordinator of The North Carolina Mascot Education & Action Group (NCMEAG) is attempting to raise the consciousness of our community regarding “Indian” mascots.  NCMEAG is a project of Western North Carolina Citizens for and End to Institutional  Bigotry, also known as (WNCCEIB). Mr. Gilmore admits to growing up a Redskins fan ( no huge crime, especially since they are playing well this season thus far) and not really thinking about the subject until local First Nations people complained about a mascot in one of the local schools back in 1996. The question posed was, how can you say you honoring me when I don’t feel honored? Many of us don’t think about these things because they are part of the air we breathe in our society.

That said, now that we do know because these issues are being raised, what excuse do we have?  And yes, there are Native Americans who don’t mind the names or mascots and their may always be.  I wonder how long this would last if it were about an African American Mascot?  How long? Not long!

Thanks to Mr. Gilmore and others, 36 schools around the state of North Carolina have retired their “Indian Mascots” since 2002. Great work Monroe Gilmore. Somebody’s listening.

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