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Los Angeles - Brushing aside the pleas of some teachers, parents, and alumni to keep cherished traditions, the Los Angeles Board of Education voted to eliminate all references to American Indians in the names and images of school mascots. The 6-0 vote, followed by an American Indian victory drum ceremony, gives three high schools and one middle school a year to replace their current Indian mascots.
- "We try to stay away from the use of warpaint."
- "...imagery that promotes stereotypes is discouraged."
- "I may not be a native american but I sure am glad I am a Redskin"
- "I paint my face every year and I'm not making fun of them."
- "[Native Americans] should be glad we keep [tradition] alive. We give them respect by naming our school after them."
- "The Michigan Commission on Civil Rights determined that the use of Indian names and images has a serious and harmful impact om Indian students and the Indian community, and it recommended that these schools find new designations for their school teams, newspapers, and stores. Sixty percent of Indian students drop out of school before the 10th grade because of the racism they face in the public and private school systemt"
In August Jill committed herself to tackling this mascot/icon/name issue. Articles have been written about her in the newspapers. People have called her bad names and some threats might be considered ethnic intimidation. Jill and her family have received tremendous support from Dr. Beverly Smith at the UM-Flint who happens to live in Milford. Dr. Smith is not Indian, but she teaches Indian history and is respectful and honorable in the knowledge she teaches. She has been involved in various communities throughout Michigan and Canada even appearing in court to testify on behalf of Native American Indian people. Jill and Dr. Smith have a strong and positive relationship. Dr. Smith has shared her knowledge, expertise, energy, time, and money to support Jill's efforts. Dr. Smith contacted me and in turn I have been writing and faxing continual updates to various Indian centers around Michigan trying to keep everyone updated.
I have spoken with Jill several times. This is a courageous young woman. All of the adults involved in this issue have agreed among themselves that Jill needs to be the "war chief" in this matter. She stepped forward and we follow her. She is developing a strong character and good attributes and it is not our place to tell her to step aside to let a more experienced person handle this matter. Jill has spoken at her high school student government council and her arguments are persuasive. People are paying attention and are coming to see that she is right. People are beginning to think about this matter and see the impact on our people. Jill has worked diligently for four months and has finally been put on the agenda for the Huron Valley Board of Education meeting for November 20th.
We are going to be asking Michigan AIM members to be at the November 20th meeting to sign up for their allotted 2 minutes of presentation on this matter. I have talked with Charlene Teeters about Jill & the Milford issue and am keeping her informed. When Jill prevails and the school adopts a new mascot & name - Jill will have this experience to guide her throughout her life. She will be interested in being an activist and perhaps will consider a job/career that will benefit the Native American Indian community. The possibilities are endless. On the selfish side: the experience she is gaining will help us tackle the other fifteen high schools in Michigan who continue to uses "Redskin" as their team designation.
I respectfully ask that you send Jill a letter of support. She needs that strength and encouragement from our leaders.
Catherine Davids, Cultural and Diversity Specialist, Univ. of Mich-Flint
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