Michigan asks federal government to stop schools using American Indians as mascots

Feb 8, 2013

Michigan’s Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education asking the federal agency to issue an order prohibiting the continued use American Indian mascots, names, nicknames, slogans, chants and/or imagery.

MDCR's complaint asserts that there is new research which clearly establishes the use of American Indian imagery "negatively impacts student learning," and creates "an unequal learning environment in violation of Article VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964."

From the complaint:

"A growing and unrebutted body of evidence now establishes that the use of American Indian imagery reinforces stereotypes in a way that negatively impacts the potential for achievement by students with American Indian ancestry," the filing argues. "Continued use of American Indian mascots, names, nicknames, logos, slogans, chants and/or other imagery creates a hostile environment and denies equal rights to all current and future American Indian students and must therefore cease."

The complaint highlights several studies showing lower achievement and self-esteem for American Indian students.

Here are some of the actions requested:

  • Eliminate the use of American Indian mascots, names, terms, graphics and/or other imagery (particularly those which portray stereotypical Indian images as warriors).  This would not be permitted in primary or secondary educational institutions that receive federal funds.
  • Eliminate the term "Redskins".
  • Limited uses of images, or names of locally significant tribes or tribal persons.
  • Stop the use of American-Indian names and/or imagery by several schools named in the complaint.

The complaint addresses only primary and secondary schools.

Colleges and universities would not be impacted by this action.  

Here's the list of the 35 Michigan schools named in the complaint:

35 Michigan Schools listed in the complaint.
35 Michigan Schools are listed in the complaint.
Credit Michigan Radio

-  Chris Zollars, Michigan Radio Newsroom