The new law regulating - and discouraging - "race based" school mascots is legislative and regulatory overreach to say the least. I think it was a solution in search of a problem and this story from the Janesville Gazette highlights the absurdity of the bill and it's supporters.
One of the schools mentioned in the story is Big Foot in Walworth. Big Foot was in the same athletic conference as my hometown and I played against them all throughout middle school and high school. On the golf team, we played at Big Foot Country Club - an extraordinary private course that was a real privilege to play. The school is named after Chief Big Foot of the Potawatomi tribe from the Lake Geneva area. It has been a name of pride and tradition for the school and it's athletic teams use the nickname "Chiefs" in his honor. In fact, when the high school was renovated a bronze statue of Chief Big Foot was erected outside the main entrance.
The statue is impressive and cannot possibly be construed as offensive or stereotypical. Through in the fact that the athletic logo for Big Foot is and interlocking 'B' and 'F' and one has to wonder how it could be under fire.
Unfortunately, it is. Barb Munson, the chairwoman for the Indian Mascot and Logo Task Force - how sad is it that such an organization exists - is upset no matter what. She contends that Indian mascots of any kind reinforce stereotypes, and thinks it's just "a matter of time" before the districts realize that. She's wrong and I hope that Big Foot school district stands by their mascot.
In situations like this the mascot is not a stereotype. It is a real person who had historical influence on the area where the school is located. Having Chief Big Foot as the mascot ensures that students will be aware of that history when it otherwise would likely be lost. It is a place of honor, not of ridicule. One wonders if there will be a push to force Big Foot to change the name of their school.
As for Ft. Atkinson, how many people know the history of the town? Does anyone know why it is Fort Atkinson? General Henry Atkinson was the commander of Union forces during the Black Hawk War that was fought throughout South-central Wisconsin. There was an actual fort located where the town is today. Ft. Atkinson is also home to many effigy mounds. The high school team is known as the Blackhawks and it pays tribute to that history and Chief Black Hawk in particular.
These are not offensive and degrading images. They are references to the history of the region and give an opportunity to teach students why their school's name is Black Hawk or Big Foot. If you take it away with this politically correct nonsense, you make the subject of Native Americans in general seem taboo and inappropriate. It sanitizes history in such a way that understanding who we are and where we came from will become nearly impossible.
My question is this: if they succeed in removing the Chiefs and Blackhawks as mascots, does that mean that I can sue to have the Vikings removed as a mascot? After all, I am Norwegian in ancestry...