In a late night vote, the Paw Paw School Board voted to keep the Redskin name and image as its mascot.
Supporters for keeping the mascot say the name is not used in a derogatory way and is a respected identifier for the community.
Paw Paw High School sophomore Morgan Dwyer says changing the name is an issue being pushed by outsiders, who she likened to school bullies.
“Ever since you’re little your parents always tell you, don’t shape who you are to please other people and I mean, I don’t know, I just feel this whole ordeal is a bigger version of that,” she said.
“We shouldn’t have to change who we are just to please some people,” Dwyer said.
Members of the Native American community say the name is offensive, is connected with discrimination against them, and should be changed.
“All they saw was the negative and we don’t have that negative,” Paw Paw alum Kim Jones said.
“We weren’t calling them Redskins, we were calling ourselves Redskins. We’re like we want to respect you. We want to be part of your community.”
Jones says her home was vandalized earlier in the day. She accused people in the audience of “crossing a line” by painting an “R” with a cross through it when she wasn’t home.
The meeting was emotional at times, with a number of outbursts. Two people were forced to leave after interrupting the meeting.
Kalamazoo resident Jaqueline Faust says her Native American children played against Paw Paw when they were in school and the name hurt them, deeply. But Faust says keeping the Redskin name will also hurt non-native students in Paw Paw.
“Their children will go out into the world thinking ‘I’m white, I’m privileged, I can do what I want even when it hurts other people.’ It’s not okay,” Faust said, shaking her head. “It’s not okay.”
Faust and others vowed to continue to keep pressuring school districts like Paw Paw to update their mascots.
“I don’t’ think that they realize that this isn’t going to go away. All these people here are smiling and happy and laughing,” Tyler Westra, also of Kalamazoo, said.
Westra says he was 15 when he went with a group to try to pressure Marshall schools to drop the Redskins mascot. That was more than a decade ago. He expects Paw Paw will too, eventually.
“They’re judgment is flawed and their outlook is ignorant,” he said.