Michigan Department of Civil Rights claims Tecumseh's Indians, Clinton's Redskins are discriminating

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Tecumseh’s Indians and Clinton’s Redskins were both included in a federal discrimination complaint. Pictured is an unidentified student who showed up at a Tecumseh football game last year. She was immediately told to leave by school officials. Photo by Mickey Alvarado.

Twenty-five years ago the Michigan Civil Rights Commission requested that our public schools establish a review committee for discarding the use of all American Indian names and symbols.

Flash forward to 2013 and here we are again. It appears our local schools are comfortable continuing their use of Indians as mascots regardless of being called racists.

The Director of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission in 1989, John Castillo, sent letters out to our local schools and was very specific about Tecumseh and Clinton no longer using the Indians and Redskins names as well as their mascot logos and symbols.

Castillo wrote, “You will observe that the commission’s position is that all use of Indian names and symbols should be eliminated. We ask that you will begin work towards this objective immediately.”

At the time, Tecumseh Public Schools formed a 20-person committee to review the request and ultimately decided to look the other way and continue using the title Tecumseh Indians. Clinton also ignored the request and continued using the title Redskins.

Michigan’s State Board of Education, in 2003, adopted a resolution strongly recommending that its schools eliminate the use of American Indian mascots, nicknames, logos, fight songs, insignias, antics and team descriptors. It reaffirmed its position again in 2010.

The request to eliminate Indians as mascots was again issued this year by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights to the U. S. Department of Education in the form of a Federal lawsuit. In that discrimination complaint, the Department of Civil Rights points out both the Tecumseh Indians and Clinton Redskins as specific examples of racial discrimination [page 10-11].

Adrian College’s Institute for Ethics asked Tecumseh and Clinton schools to join them in a forum on the issue, tentatively scheduled for April 23. Both school districts declined the invitation.

Neither school is interested in openly discussing the issue. Clinton had the mascot issue brought up by residents in 2010 and went through exhaustive efforts creating a forum for discussion at the high school. After it was all said and done, Clinton’s residents and school board decided to keep the name Redskins while changing its Native American symbolism to be less offensive.

Tecumseh Public School’s Superintendent, Mike McAran said of the Adrian College Institute for Ethics forum, “It’s not an issue we want to be involved with. It’s bigger than us,” referring to the federal lawsuit.

Dave Pray, Clinton’s superintendent had no comment on the recent federal lawsuit when questioned by a Herald reporter.

The forum at Adrian College, co-sponsored by the Institute for Education, is being created with the efforts of director Dr. Fritz Detwiler. He asked the Tecumseh Herald to help find people in Tecumseh and Clinton who would speak in favor of keeping Indian names, mascots and symbols because Tecumseh and Clinton schools declined to commit to sending representatives to the discussion.

I find it disturbing that our local educational facilities would choose to ignore the request to be involved in such an important discussion involving Indian mascots when they use them and refuse to change. It appears that the only thing that will work is forcing the issue, which the Michigan Department of Civil Rights has decided to do after politely asking for at least 25 years.

Anyone interested in defending the use of Tecumseh Indians or Clinton Redskins names, mascots or symbolism can contact Dr. Fritz Detwiler at 517.265.5161, extension 4223, or email him at fdetwiler@adrian.edu. The Institute for Ethics will provide an honorarium of $75 for each panelist. The panel already has commitments from Abel Cooper of the Leh-Nah-Weh Native American Association and the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.

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