Hartford school board OKs retirement of Indians mascot

Van Buren County

HARTFORD (WOOD) — The Hartford Public Schools Board of Education officially voted Monday to retire the district’s Indians mascot.

Hartford Superintendent Kelly Millin announced in a letter to parents late last month the district was moving forward with retiring the mascot at the end of the current school year.

In a separate press release issued earlier this month, Millin said the name change was “hastened by information presented to HPS by the local Pokagon Band of Potawatomis, through their Tribal Council.”

In March, the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians Tribal Council voted on a resolution that would “encourage all non-Native institutions, organizations, and entities including without limitation, sports teams (both school sanctioned and league affiliated), universities, colleges, and schools (parochial, private, and public) throughout the United States, to eliminate the use of Native American/Indian mascots, native-themed imagery, symbolisms, logos, and nicknames.”

A resolution by the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians Tribal Council calling on teams to get rid of Indians mascots.

Hartford voted 6-1 to retire the mascot. Treasurer Fidel Mireles was the lone no vote.

Before the vote, Trustee Lisa Johnson said the change was coming as the district has watched “at the professional, collegiate, and local levels with our most recent mascot changes with Paw Paw and Saugatuck.”

“Change is hard,” Johnson continued, “especially in our small prideful town of Hartford where we do not see much change. I realize that is a comfort to many, myself included.”

Board President Mike Banic said it was the Pokagon Tribe’s resolution that cemented his decision to retire the mascot.

“We have pride in ourselves for years that we have a great relationship with the Pokagons,” Banic said. “If that is going to continue to be true, we need to honor the wishes stated in their resolution. “

Banic and Johnson both asked the community to move forward.

“Let’s move forward with a mascot we can all be proud of. Let’s let the kids move forward with new memories and prove and provide a safe, positive climate we committed to when we chose to serve on this school board,” Banic said.

“We will be OK no matter the outcome,” Johnson added. “We still have the best students and staff at Hartford. We still have a supportive community that loves our school. We still will bleed that green and white and we still have that Hartford pride no matter what. It’s not found in a mascot. It’s found in the wonderful people that make up our school community.”

The Pokagon Tribe, which noted that many of its members attend Hartford, said in a statement that it “applauds the efforts” of the superintendent and school board.

The tribe met with both Hartford and Dowagiac Union Schools, whose mascot is the Chieftains, in August. Dowagiac has not publicly discussed changing its mascot.

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