‘Redskins’ mascot debate continues in Paw Paw

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PAW PAW, Mich. -- After an intense special board meeting that lasted more than three hours last week, there was a much different atmosphere Monday in Paw Paw as residents continued to debate the school's use of the "Redskins" mascot.

Last week, a lot of people were outspoken, saying offensive and derogatory things.  On Monday, there was a smaller crowd and everyone waited respectfully for others to speak.

Monica, a mother in the district who is Native American, says she is disgusted with the mascot but also with the lack of proper education focusing on Native Americans. "The reason I am here is because when [my daughter] went to this school before, I learned you had the Redskin mascot.  I attended a presentation at her school talking about Indians and being Native American, and so I figured I should attend to see what kind of information she is learning," Monica said.

What she saw and heard surprised her.

"I was really upset to find out it was a woman that was Caucasian dressed in some type of faux fringe outfit and faux headband who sang songs in English and called Indian men 'braves' and Indian women 'squaws.'  And at that point, I knew there was something very wrong with this community."

In her opinion, it's unforgivable.

"We do not call our men 'braves,' and we do not call our women 'squaws.'  It's terrible mis-education and is discriminating and derogatory," she said.  "And I think you owe an apology to my daughter about what you incorrectly taught her about who she is."

Others at the meeting had a very different perspective.  Nicole, a mother of two in the school system, has a husabnd who is Native American and wants the "Redskin" name to stay. "We are wasting the time of [the board] drawing this out month after month," she said.  "The time of the board should not be spent discussing this mascot or the term 'Redskin.'  We should be discussing the real issues, like not enough recess time, dwindling state funding."

Nicole argued that if their family and extended family do not find the 'Redskins' name derogatory and offensive, then why change it?

"Please do not erase our legacy," she said. "The Native American symbol is based on pride and dignity, not shame."

Another meeting is scheduled Feb. 8, where there will be a vote on whether the school board will move to change the mascot or keep it.

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