State News

Tribes use casino profits to help Michigan school teams drop 'Warriors,' 'Indians' and 'the R-word'

July 05, 2022, 11:11 AM

Hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Native American group will help four Michigan school districts pay to replace offensive team mascots and athletic logos on uniforms, helmets, gyms, banners and buildings.

The Indians become the Huskies before this Van Buren County district reopens after summer.

Grants exceeding $400,000 are the latest in annual support from the Native American Heritage Fund, a tribal coalition working "to replace or revise mascots and imagery that may be deemed offensive to Native Americans or may convey inaccurate representations of Native American culture and values."

These recipients get payments Aug. 19 to make changes before the 2022-23 school year:

  • Chippewa Hills School District: $52,371 to replace Warriors images with Golden Knights artwork. The Mescota County system is in mid-Michigan.

  • Hartford Public Schools: $132,249 to rebrand the mascot from Indians to Huskies, and add lessons "to help build meaningful connections with students." The West Michigan schools are in Van Buren County

  • Lansing School District: $87,500 to rebrand Big Reds teams with "a culturally appropriate mascot and logo."

  • Saranac Community Schools: $139,319 to rebrand the current mascot from Redskins (called "the R-word" by the fund) to Red Hawks.

"Priority was given to at least partially funding the important work of reducing the number of inappropriate mascots among Michigan public schools, which is often costly for schools that need to update facilities, uniforms and more," a news release says.

Teams in the state capital will be nicknamed in some "culturally appropriate" way. (Photo: Lansing School District)

The six-year-old heritage fund is part of a Tribal-State Gaming Compact between the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi and Michigan's government. It gets up to $500,000 per year from state casino revenue-sharing payments.  

Its goal is "to improve curricula and educational resources related to Michigan Indian history, as well as to fund initiatives that promote mutual respect and cooperation between local communities and Michigan’s federally recognized tribes." 

This five-person board last month picked school and two college grant recipients from among 11 applicants:

  • Jamie Stuck, Potawatomi Tribal Council chairperson

  • Dorie Rios, tribal council vice chairperson

  • Elizabeth Kinnart, Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

  • Kimberly Vargo, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians

  • Melissa Kiesewetter, Michigan Department of Civil Rights tribal liaison

Checks will be distributed during an Aug. 19 ceremony in the FireKeepers Casino Hotel in Battle Creek.

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