School can do so much better than discriminatory imagery
It’s a shame the greater Mukwonago community has made the ill-informed and unwise choice to turn their Indian mascot into Custer’s Last Stand. I, for one, couldn’t be more pleased that the DPI is appealing the Waukesha judge’s biased and ill-informed Mukwonago Indian mascot decision.
I work in the Mukwonago community and have seen firsthand the mascot’s harmful effects on the REAL Indian community there. Mukwonago launches rabid attacks against anyone who protests the use of the high school’s fantasy Indian name and image. This includes death threats that chased a REAL Indian family out of Mukwonago 20 years ago when they filed a formal complaint against the mascot, up to present-day REAL Mukwonago Indian students who pretend to be Mexican so they won’t be harassed by white students, and a REAL Mukwonago Indian student who was physically accosted in a Mukwonago park after speaking out against the school’s Indian mascot and logo.
Indian stereotypes and defending their continued use are clearly harmful, demonstrated not only by academic research but anecdotally in the incidents above.
Furthermore, the Plains Indian headdress flaunted by the Mukwonago Indians was never even worn historically by the real Mukwonago Indians – the Potawatomi, Sac, Fox, Menominee, Ho-Chunk, and Ojibwe people who were the first inhabitants of Mukwonago! Clearly, the Mukwonago school district cares more about caressing a Plains Indian headdress and concocting phony local history in order to sustain an aggressive, extracurricular sports program than it cares either about teaching its students real local historical facts about Indian people, or about creating a learning environment that is free from discrimination, harassment and intimidation. This is exactly what the statewide Indian logo and mascot law sought to avoid, and what the DPI’s Mukwonago mascot and logo decision sought to end.
Come on, Mukwonago! Why not turn your destructive logo and mascot around into something constructive and historically accurate using real hometown history? Just as the Waukesha Freeman was founded by abolitionists, Mukwonago’s Yankee founders created the Mukwonago Anti-Slavery Society in the 1850s. Mukwonago, like Waukesha, was also a documented stop on the underground railroad. Perhaps the Mukwonago football team could become the “Railroaders.” Why couldn’t the students at Mukwonago High be just as proud to be a Mukwonago Railroader as they say they are to be a Mukwonago Indian?
Mukwonago’s fantasy Indian logo and mascot have clearly led to individual pupil harassment and discrimination along with the harmful stereotyping of Indian people as a whole. Anyone who believes otherwise has their head in the sand. Retiring Mukwonago High’s disrespectful severed head logo and plains Indian mascot is long overdue. Railroaders anyone?
(Andrea Frank is a local historian in Walworth and Waukesha counties. She lives in East Troy.)