Lawmakers to take up Indian Mascot bill

CREATED Oct 15, 2013

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MADISON - "Would you call your team the African Americans?"

Barbara Munson, an Oneida tribal member who chairs the Indian Mascot and Logo Taskforce for the Wisconsin Indian Education Association, says 'Indians,' as a team name, is no different.

Munson is fighting a bill in Madison that would make it harder to force a school to change its nickname and logo in Wisconsin.

Right now the state Department of Public Instruction must hold a hearing on a school's race-based nickname if the agency receives a complaint from one person. The school must prove the nickname doesn't promote discrimination. DPI then decides whether the name must go.

The bill up for vote today requires a complainant to collect signatures equal to 10 percent of the school district's students to trigger a review and would have to prove discrimination. The Department of Administration, not DPI, would make the final call.

"It would be sort of like asking a sexual assault victim to out into the community and request 10 percent of the population to support their complaint," Munson said.

Munson argues the Indian nicknames victimize Native American children.  "Indian mascot stereotypes are European American ideas about what American Indian people are like.  They are very simplified, they are very stereotypical," Munson said.

The bill's sponsors believe it's too easy to force an entire district to change a logo now.  The Mukwonago school district has been fighting to keep its Indian nickname.  One of the bill's sponsors represents the area.