January 09, 2009

Marching Chiefs reverse decision

A followup to the Marching Chiefs controversy reported yesterday:

Wyandotte band allowed to be 'Chiefs' at Obama's inauguration paradeThe Marching Chiefs logo will stay on the Wyandotte Roosevelt High School marching band’s uniforms for the inaugural parade on Jan. 20.

Wyandotte Schools Superintendent Patricia Cole said the torrent of support she got today from alumni, some native Americans and people across the country caused her to reverse a decision to cover up the Indian head logo on the sleeve of the Roosevelt High School band uniforms.

In late December she decided to answer the protests of Harvey Gunderson, a Wisconsin resident and president of Religious Americans Against Indian Nicknames and Logos, and have the band carry a new banner without the Marching Chiefs name, cover up the Indian head logo on the uniforms and change the name in inaugural program to Wyandotte Roosevelt High School Marching Band.

The Marching Chiefs moniker, a tribute to the Wyandotte Indian tribe which settled along the banks of the Detroit River in the early 1700s, has been used since the 1950s, and the people calling and e-mailing the school district today said that more than 50 years of tradition should not change.
And:The decision is supported by Chief Leaford Bearskin, the leader of the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma, a tribe of 4,410 native Americans who are descendants of the tribal members who called the area bounded by Oak Street and Eureka Avenue home until 1818.

“I consider it an honor to have the logo in the parade,” Bearskin said Thursday. “I give them my blessing, totally.
Chief Logo to Be at Inauguration After AllIn the radio interview, Bearskin said, "It's an honor to me to be called the Wyandotte Chiefs up there by your organization. We've got quite a few people around trying to help us poor Indians and I think they get in the way, quite frankly.

"I would be honored to have the Wyandotte Chiefs going down in the parade. I think it would be wonderful."

The Free Press quoted Gunderson: "When a band says that someone becomes a chief when they join the band, they're trivializing the actual role of the chief in American Indian nations. It just flies in the face of the spirit of what the whole inauguration is about."

In a letter to Gunderson, Bearskin said that only he and the chief of the Wyandotte tribe in Quebec can speak for the tribe. Bearskin wrote, "I speak to you personally--Mind your own business."

The Free Press reported that Superintendent Cole reversed the decision on Thursday.

The newspaper reported Friday that the school still plans to change the name of the band to the Wyandotte Roosevelt High School Marching Band. Cole said that the school is replacing the band's old banner, which bears the logo, with a much larger one that simply says "Wyandotte" to better publicize the community.
Comment:  Good to see the school recognizes the inappropriateness of its "Chief" mascot. A stereotypical Plains chief has little or nothing to do with a non-Indian school in Michigan.

For more on the subject, see Team Names and Mascots.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for telling it "like it is" - We do not want anyone to "Rain on our Parade" - The
Wyandotte Marching Chiefs are a
very respectable Band as well as their hard working community. If you only knew what everyone pulled together to get these kids to Wash. D.C. to be a part of Pres. Obama - you would call this a
"success" story, thanks to Chief
Bearskin to protect us, we will forever protect his land with our strong community.

Rob said...

How hard the band pulled together has nothing to do with how stereotypical its mascot is. It's like saying, "If you knew how blond the band members were, you wouldn't criticize their name and logo." It's totally irrelevant...a non sequitur.

For more of my telling it like it is, see Wyandotte Indians Aren't Marching Chiefs.