These nicknames conjure up images of brave warriors battling valiantly for the survival of their tribe, or utilizing their cunning and ingenuity to live off the land and provide for their people.
Not everyone agrees.
In fact, some feel that these nicknames are so disrespectful to Native American people that they should be changed.
The Michigan Department of Civil Rights recently filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education that the use of Native American mascots, slogans and imagery in our state’s schools “promotes stereotypes and creates an unequal learning environment.”
First of all, we find it difficult to believe that attending a school that boasts a Native American nickname would in any way affect student learning.
Secondly, we disagree that these nicknames in any way disrespect or promote stereotypes.
Ironically, many Native Americans agree with us. Central Michigan University features the Chippewas nickname, and that nickname has the endorsement of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Mount Pleasant.
These nicknames are meant to conjure up pride and speak to the heart of the warrior in the students who represent their schools.
Look at other popular school mascots: Lions, Eagles, Crusaders, Trojans. These are all great, majestic, powerful images around which the schools can rally.
We can see how some may be offended by the name of the NFL team residing in Washington, the Redskins. But the Braves, the Warriors, the Chiefs and the Chippewas are names to be proud of, not names to be made fun of.
Living in Michigan, so much of our heritage is reflected in the proud names of the Native Americans who lived here before us. We should take pride in these names.
If we are to believe that all Native American nicknames are offensive, then we also must believe that nicknames such as the Holland Dutch, the Ypsilanti Lincoln Rail Splitters, the Warren Cousino Patriots, the Warren DeLaSalle Pilots and the Watersmeet Nimrods — not to mention the Grand Haven Buccaneers and the Spring
Lake Lakers — are also offensive.
It’s ridiculous, and the Michigan Department of Civil Rights should find a better way to occupy its time than by worrying about school mascots.
Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.