‘Redskin’ mascot debate raises tempers at Paw Paw High

Posted at 10:20 PM, Jan 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-18 22:21:07-05

PAW PAW, Mich. -- Tempers flared at a special board meeting at Paw Paw High School addressing their controversial mascot, "the Redskins."

Paw Paw is the latest in schools across West Michigan to host the debate about whether or not offensive mascots should be removed.

Dozens showed up to voice their thoughts, some wearing red t-shirts emblazoned with the Redskin logo to show their loyalty to the mascot. Just 15 minutes into the meeting, people were yelling at each other, forcing the superintendent to step in to quell the anger.

Tina Adams Collins represents four generations of Paw Paw graduates. She says she's supporting the name they've had for over 90 years.

"I don’t think the Indians or anybody should come in here and tell us this offends them," Collins says.

Some Native Americans showed up, also supporting the Redskins as a mascot. Eunice Davidson from North Dakota authored the book "Aren't We Sioux Enough?" which is about the fight to keep the "Fighting Sioux" mascot at the University of North Dakota.

"I see this as another genocide of our history," Davidson said. "I really believe if you take away our names and our images what is going to happen to our people."

Davidson doesn't believe the name "Redskin" is derogatory, and says that the umbrage some people take with it is misrepresented.

"I hear people talk about how its about scalping and all this," Davidson said. "No, you can Google it. You can look at it anywhere you want. ["Redskin" refers to] the color of the skin."

Dozens of people showed up with the opposite point of view, saying they think its extremely disrespectful and may embrace stereotypes.

"Most words that we say that are derogatory have historical origin," said Karen Schaumann, a professor at Schoolcraft College. "The N-word started out in Spanish: 'negro.' That doesn't mean its OK to go around calling people the N-word."

Schaumann says that "Redskin" may not be historically derogatory, she argues it has become a harmful word.

"There is an entire canon of education and psychological research on the harm - not just on the Native American students - but all students because it allows them to embrace stereotypes," she says.

Despite not being able to agree on whether or not the mascot is offensive, both sides of the debate say that more education on Native American culture is warranted, something they say many schools are lacking.

In Dec 2016, the Belding Area Schools Board of Education unanimously voted to drop their "Redskins" mascot after several meetings.