Mukwonago school officials in Wisconsin defend Indians mascot

By Scott Bauer
Madison, Wisconsin (AP) September 2010

Mukwonago school officials made their case to state education officials Aug. 27 on why their Indians mascot is not discriminatory and should be allowed to remain in place.

If successful, the school about 30 miles southwest of Milwaukee, would be the first to defend their race-based mascot under a new law that gives the Department of Public Instruction the power to order districts to do away with them or face fines.

The state will issue its decision within 45 days.

School attorney Mark Olson said that the Indians mascot and logo was the target of “unfair, unjust and unfounded assertions.” He said the logo, which shows an Indian man wearing a feathered head dress, has been in place for more than 80 years and has a “very profound and very deep meaning” to parents, students, staff and others in the community.

The complaint was filed by recent Mukwonago graduate Rain Koepke who contended that the school’s use of the Indians name and logo had contributed to his harassment as a student of Native American descent.

It makes no sense to do away with the logo simply based on the “whims of one person,” Olson said.

Koepke was represented at the hearing by Barbara Munson, a member of the Oneida Nation who is chairwoman of the Wisconsin Indian Education Association’s Indian Mascot and Logo Taskforce.

Keeping the current logo teaches children to become accustomed to stereotyping and discrimination, she said. The whole purpose of the law passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Jim Doyle earlier this year was to prevent that from occurring, she said.

Already this year the state has ordered the Osseo-Fairchild School District to do away with its Chieftains logo and the Kewaunee School District decided to drop its Indians team after it was challenged but before the state held a hearing.

Under state law, Mukwonago has the burden of proving that its mascot is not unambiguously race-based and promoting discrimination, student harassment and stereotyping. The district enrolls about 5,100 students.

The Wisconsin Indian Education Association’s Indian Mascot and Logo Task Force has identified 33 schools that have race-based mascot or logos. Of those, 11 as known as the Indians.