GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Camden-Frontier School District, the last district in Michigan to use “Redskins” as its school mascot, has voted to retire the mascot and come up with a new one.
Superintendent Chris Adams announced the decision in a community newsletter posted on Sunday.
“The Board of Education voted on the motion ‘to respectfully retire the Redskin mascot effective immediately with phased out completion by the end of June 2024,’” Adams stated.
The school district plans to gather input from students, staff, administration and community members for the next mascot.
Native American groups have advocated for several years that the term “Redskins” is an offensive term in the indigenous community.
“This has been an unavoidable topic for years for our school district as well as many other districts and organizations,” Adams stated.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association adopted a new policy in 2005 to ban any “hostile or abusive” racial/ethnic mascots. In the last few years, professional teams including the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians have made the change — to the Commanders and Guardians, respectively.
In West Michigan alone, several school groups have worked with the Native American Heritage Fund to retire their indigenous mascots and rebrand. The NAHF launched in 2016 as part of an amendment to a 1988 gaming deal between the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi and the state of Michigan.
Since its launch in 2016, the fund has distributed more than $1.5 million in grants to help Michigan schools in their rebranding efforts — like replacing basketball courts, jerseys, murals and signage.
Belding was one of the first schools to work with the NAHF. Paw Paw, Saugatuck, Chippewa Hills, Saranac and Hartford have also made the change using NAHF funds. The NAHF also contributed nearly $100,000 to Godfrey-Lee Public Schools to help the district rebrand from the “Rebels” mascot that is considered offensive by many people because of its connection to the Confederacy and slavery.
Adams says this decision is not meant to overshadow or erase the school’s history but to move forward.
“The passion, memory and sentiments of alumni is not to be forgotten nor will artifacts be thrown away. We will be preserving the history of the Camden-Frontier School District. The retirement of the mascot is about looking to the future, not erasing the past,” he stated.
Many schools and universities still use indigenous names or imagery, but most with local partnerships are meant to educate and help teach the history of indigenous tribes.
Central Michigan University, which goes by the Chippewa, entered an agreement with the Saginaw Chippewa tribe in 2003. The university regularly holds cultural events dedicated to Chippewa history and culture and has developed educational initiatives to preserve that history and culture.
In describing the partnership, CMU says the university uses the nickname “as a sign of pride, honor and respect for the tribe’s rich heritage.”