Wisconsin High School Circles The Wagons, Refuses To Change ‘Indians’ Nickname

  • Rick Chandler

Mukwonago is a village in southern Wisconsin, and I’ve always wanted to live in a village. I’m picturing thatched roofs and an officially-designated village idiot, but that’s probably not right. Anyway, there’s big controversy there right now.

Mukwonago High School has been ordered by the State Department of Public Instruction to get rid of its nickname, the Indians, claiming that it violates Act 250, which bans raced-based and culturally insensitive school nicknames.

But so far the school district has refused to ditch the name, even though one deadline to do so has already passed. The state has given Mukwonago an extension until Oct. 8 to change it, or possibly be subject to fines of $1,000 per day.

Please note that the school’s marching band has already complied with the order:

Mukwonago’s marching band is known as the Phantom Legion, but the sports teams are known as the Indians, unless the state forces the district to get rid of the Native American name and logo, which is offensive to some people.

Yep, the school has a perfectly awesome nickname ready to take over, but won’t use it for anything but the band. And when you read the graph below, it’s obvious to see why:

“My daughter, Mariah, will be a senior this year, and she was just terrified that they weren’t going to be able to graduate as the Indians like her older siblings have,” said parent Crystal Rozanske.

Yes, Mariah was “terrified” of not being able to graduate as an Indian. Not sure that rises to the level of being terrified that the army has given your tribe blankets riddled with smallpox, but still I feel her pain.

Since 1970, more than 600 high school and college teams in the U.S. have done away with Native American nicknames. Where I grew up, we had the Stanford Indians (changed to Cardinal in 1971), and my high school was the Sequoia Cherokees (changed to Ravens for on-field mascot purposes).

In Oregon, 20 high schools have switched out Native American nicknames over the past 40 years, and in 2006 the Oregon Board of Education adopted a nonbinding recommendation that schools stop using them. Some resisted. Then last year the state passed a law banning the nicknames outright, and schools that don’t comply will be denied state funding.

The Mukwonago controversy arose when a former student complained to the state, saying that the nickname offended him and was not in compliance with the law. The school district counters that the law is unconstitutional. Meanwhile, there’s a bill in the works in the state legislature that would seek to strike down Act 250, and put control of the nicknames into the hands of the districts.

I say that that the school should stand its ground and defy the ban. That way, after being fined $1,000 per day, within a year the school will be dead-ass broke — and then they’ll finally know what it really feels like to be an Indian after the white man takes over.