The Auburndale school district is starting the process of changing its “Apaches” nickname. Two dozen district residents attended an informational session held by district officials on Monday. Also attending were Harvey and Carol Gunderson, who led the fight against the “chieftains” nickname and logo in the Osseo-Fairchild school district. The Gundersons are the co-founders of Religious Americans against Indian Nicknames & Logos, and Carol is a member of the Oneida Nation. The Gundersons also actively lecture on Native American issues at UW-Stout in Menomonie. And they presented research data showing the psychological affects indian-based nicknames and logos have on Native Americans.
Auburndale graduate Charlie Gust, who was a senior when the district adopted the Apache nickname in 1960, urged the community to move on, and change its name. “We’re in a no-win situation when DPI (the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction) comes out and says that you’re subject to fines if you don’t change it,” said Gust. “All we need is one complaint, and that complaint will come soon, certainly.” Gust suggested a handful of names to replace Apaches, including Athletics, A’s, and the district’s original nickname-Aubbies. His first choice, though, would be Agies, play off the area’s agricultural heritage.
“The financial consequences of not acting, or at least attempting to act are so overwhelming for a small district like this, to sort of wait around and get caught unawares is not appropriate,” said Auburndale school board president Doug Reding. District officials will talk more about moving toward a new nickname at the board’s October 27th meeting. A new state law was passed in May aimed at getting rid of race-based nicknames, logos and mascots in state schools. Many feel Auburndale is safe under the new law, because it states that only federally-recognized Indian tribes can be used as nicknames, which the Apache nation is. The law also says proceedings to get rid of a nickname start once the district receives a complaint, and officials with Auburndale schools have not received one yet.
Mike Warren, WDLB