AS SCHOOL IS BACK in session and our sports teams are again competing on the fields and courts, it seems like a good time to revisit the MSHS mascot/branding issue. We hoped this wouldn’t still be a topic of discussion… but it is. The Indian Chief image has been scrubbed from the scene, but apparently no official decision has been made regarding the use of Redmen, and the female sobriquet, Redette. We still see those nicknames here and there, but as far as we know, their use is not being encouraged by school administration.
Without taking a side, we would simply like a decision to be made so we can all move on. It’s understandable that the school board has been hesitant to act on this, since whatever decision is made, there will likely be a lot of unhappy people. Whenever this matter appears on a future meeting agenda, you can bet the room will be filled with those both for and against. The divisions created by the ongoing debate won’t be easily repaired, nor will they benefit our student athletes.
We can expect that any decision will not be immediately forthcoming as two new school board members will be elected this coming November. So, it’s likely that the issue won’t be back on the table until the new board is in place. Another delay. We thought the last election, which seemed at the time to be a referendum on the nickname issue, would have brought about a decision. Nope. It’s still simmering, still on a back burner.
The recent decision made about the Lakeshore Boulevard hotel project, outlined in last week’s post, provided a pretty good template for how to proceed. Determine your criteria, hear the people, and take a vote.
If they decide to keep the Redmen identity, and can justify that path, fine. If they decide to go in a different direction, then take the steps necessary to come up with a new name, involve the public, and make that decision.
Keith Glendon, a former school board member and advocate for change, has started an online petition to change the name to what’s currently being used at the Alternative High School… Eagles. Or, as he has also suggested, the Ojibwa term for eagle… Migizi. The Marquette Migizi?
Glendon says he’s not necessarily advocating for any specific nickname.
“I’m putting forth a question with the intent of opening an authentic dialogue driven by our community’s engagement together as opposed to making it a School Board nightmare. What I WANT is to see our community and our district model for our children the ideals of compromise, collaboration, healing, honoring of ancient wisdom, honoring of the reality of Native Americans’ experience of our Modern culture.”
He also believes the time is right for action. “I think it’s time to continue the dialogue and build community-led energy for a way forward that serves the combined best interest of our district and our children’s future. I think that means actively moving this conversation forward and continuing to engage in the challenging discussions to seek an acceptable way forward for all.”
Without providing an official comment for Word on the Street, the group identified as “Time to Retain: Keep the Redmen Nickname,” represents a large number of people who apparently don’t see “Redmen” as being a negative, and don’t want to see their local heritage changed to satisfy a contingent of people who may have never had a direct relationship to it. Their position isn’t that of ill-intent. They just don’t see the need for change. They share that opinion with another group against dropping the Redmen identity, “Save the Marquette Redmen.”
The opinions and positions on both sides are valid, and that’s what makes this situation so difficult. Marquette isn’t the first community to face this issue, and won’t be the last.
On its surface, this seems to break along the line of townies vs trolls. Those who have lived here most of their lives and attended Marquette schools vs those who are originally from someplace else. That’s a broad generalization, but probably not far from the truth. Though it won’t be easy to bring those two factions together, kicking the can down the road certainly won’t make it happen. If we continue to pick at this scab, it will never heal.
The idea that this boils down to ‘locals’ vs ‘latelys’ is disconcerting. To suggest that the opinions of those born and bred here should carry more weight reeks of arbitrary partisanship. Disqualifying the position of a large group of residents simply because they’re not Yoopers by birth is short-sighted at best.
Keith Glendon is a good example of a Marquette product who favors change… for reasons he readily defends. A proud product of this city he loves, his desire for a new nickname is honest and well-intentioned. “I now work with and for and in honor of several Native American families and am living a life quietly dedicated to healing the rift in our country by seeking to be a force of reconciliation and healing / teaming between native and non-native interests.”
Those who want to retain the Redmen moniker are just as passionate and sincere in their efforts. And to discount their opinions because they may not seem as “enlightened” as your own is equally unjustifiable. As with many issues that cause sides to be formed, there’s probably more they have in common than what we see on the surface… like quality athletic programs that offer students the opportunity to partake in skill-building pursuits… outside the classroom.
The survey taken back in 2020 to identify the opinions of residents found that about 60% favored keeping the name while the other 40% preferred something other than an identity found objectionable by some.
Bottom line? Let’s either confirm that we’re the Redmen… or start the process to identify a new nickname. We elect school board members and hire qualified administrators to make the tough calls. It’s time to make this one.