A hearing on Wednesday will decide whether the Kewaunee school district can continue to be known as the Indians. Just last week the Department of Public Instruction ordered the Osseo-Fairchild Chieftains to give up that nickname.
Harvey Gunderson lives in Osseo. His wife Carol is a member of the Oneida Nation. “For the last eight years we have been engaged in a struggle with our school board to try to get our community to understand that the use of Carol’s race is inappropriate as an athletic symbol and usage by an overwhelmingly 99-percent white community.”
Gunderson says some folks attempt to rationalize the use of the word “Chieftains” by arguing that it has other meanings when used in other context. While that’s true, he says, it’s irrelevant in the context of high school sports. “Because the nickname historically has not been used to mean anything else as a sports nickname. In contrast, nicknames like Raiders and Warriors have for decades had multiple meanings in the context of U.S. athletics.”
Also, Gunderson doesn’t buy the argument that your Indian friend says it’s OK. He says one American Indian does not speak for all. “There are African Americans who’ll say that it’s OK with them for you to use the ‘N-word.’ So do you use the ‘N-word?’ … I hope not.”
School officials from Menomonee Falls, whose nickname is the Indians, oppose the new rules, saying they are concerned about making schools come up with the money for new uniforms, signs, and equipment. A complaint against the Mukwonago Indians is pending. Three dozen Wisconsin districts have Indian nicknames.