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WUWM's Teran Powell reports on race and ethnicity in southeastern Wisconsin.

School Board Approves Retiring Menomonee Falls High School's 'Indians' Nickname

Teran Powell
The Menomonee Falls School Board heard from the public on Nov. 25 about possibly removing Menomonee Falls High School's "Indians" nickname.

Updated on Tuesday at 9:40 a.m. CT

The Menomonee Falls School Board voted 5-2 on Monday to retire Menomonee Falls High School's "Indians" nickname at the end of this school year. 

Over the years, Wisconsin politicians have gone back and forth over whether schools should be forced to remove Native American nicknames and mascots. It was a resolution from the Wausau School District that re-ignited a conversation to retire Native American mascots, nicknames, and the like, in Wisconsin schools.

The resolution was drafted by the district’s school board president, Tricia Zunker. It was passed unanimously by the Wausau School Board. It began circulating among other school districts toward the end of the summer, asking school boards to endorse it.

Zunker says the goal was to get it on the Wisconsin Association of Schools Boards legislative agenda in time for the organization’s convention next month.

"This is a matter of educational policy. The American Psychological Association issued a resolution in 2005 calling for the immediate retirement of Native American mascots, imagery, logos and nicknames because of the detrimental effects they have on the education of our students. That needs to be the focus," Zunker says.

Zunker says because of a fast-approaching deadline to submit the resolution, only 18 school districts co-sponsored it. Menomonee Falls wasn’t one of them.

According to a letter the Menomonee Falls School Board sent to district families, the board decided that it was in the best interest of the students and the community to make whether to change the high school’s ‘Indians’ s nickname a local decision based on community input. So, the Menomonee Falls School Board hosted a series of hearings for the community.

Credit Teran Powell
Members of the Menomonee Nation spoke during a press conference ahead of the Nov. 25 hearing.

Doug Zimmerman is opposed. He spoke at the Nov. 25 hearing. He says it’s a waste of time and that the school has already changed its logo twice.

The high school doesn’t have a physical mascot. But in its logo, the F in Menomonee Falls is embellished with a couple of feathers.

"So, what's to stop in three years for the alleged offended again to come back and say, 'Oh this is …' when is it gonna end? It just needs to stop here," Zimmerman says.

Billie Scherr spoke in favor of changing the name. Scherr is half Oneida and half Menominee, and says she represents a small population of native people in the Menomonee Falls community. Her daughter attends Menomonee Falls High School.

Scherr says native people there have been made to feel like they don’t have a voice. And she’s even been told by some people that her views don’t matter.

"For a community to say that to a minority such as myself and my daughter, and that be your school name. Where’s your pride? Where’s your honor? Where’s your respect?" she says.

There are currently more than two dozen Wisconsin school districts that use Native American logos, nicknames and symbols.

Teran is WUWM's race & ethnicity reporter.
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