SIREN––In a split vote the Siren School Board denied a motion to sign a resolution going around the state calling for the end of using Native American symbols or people as mascots for schools.
The resolution was brought to the board by associate high school principal Wayne Koball. He said the mascots are offensive and thought it was time the state retire the mascots out there.
“I think it would be nice to throw our support behind it,” Koball said. He added Wausau and a number of other school districts have sent it to the state capital. “I just know we run into a few of these names that I don’t think are correct. I think we should take a stand that we support the resolution.”
Trustee Duane Emery was the first to speak in favor of the resolution.
“I’ve been through this thing for so many years,” Emery began. “I remember when it first came out, the mascots, and I read an article on the Miami (University) of Ohio Indians. They did it right.”
There were no native people in Ohio and the university went to Oklahoma to ask about the name and it led to native students being allowed to go to the school for free.
“I have sparing thoughts about this, being a Native American male,” Emery said. “My family broke the color barrier in Rice Lake, Wisconsin. It was a horrifying childhood.”
He then shifted the conversation from the mascot to the people.
“I’m proud to be an Indian,” Emery concluded. “We have blatant prejudice walking through this school every day… both communities have made in roads. I think this is a good resolution but is just a stepping stone to the ultimate goal of people treating people like people.”
Siren’s Native American coordinator Tara Voss gave her own experience as a mother and an educator of native children.
“My kids have come home and their classmates have said they’re not Indian because they don’t look like it and wear a war bonnet and they don’t look like the mascot these non-native schools see,” Voss said when talking about her experience as a mother of native children. “That’s a really hard conversation to have with a five-year-old.”
She added that some students at Siren school don’t feel native enough because they don’t look like the stoic warrior that is presented by these mascots.
Koball was also prepared for the opposition to be joining the resolution.
“I was proud to be an Osceola Chief,” trustee Mark Pettis said. “I don’t think I can vote for my alma mater and tell them what they can do with their mascot.”
Trustee Susie Imme added that she once knew a young man who dressed up as Michael Jordan in what she called blackface.
“At that time there was no name for it, to my knowledge of what we’ll call blackface. It was not racist or divisive in anyway,” Imme said. “It’s a sign of honor, respect and admiration.”
The vote was 3-4 with Peggy Moore, Rhonda Highstrom and Emery voting in favor and the rest of the board in opposition.