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Michigan teams with Native America mascots encouraged to change their names

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From top left to bottom right, Takonsha Indians, Paw Paw Redskins, Dowagiac Chieftains, White Pigeon Chiefs
From top left to bottom right, Takonsha Indians, Paw Paw Redskins, Dowagiac Chieftains, White Pigeon Chiefs

LANSING (WKZO) -- There are 35 school districts in Michigan that have mascots that play off Native American names, and it could soon cost them to keep them.

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights is urging the U.S. Department of Education to withhold federal funding from school districts that call themselves, the Braves, or Redskins, Chiefs, Mohawks or the like.

They base their request on studies that show that use of Mascots with Native American themes cause “psychological and emotional harm” to that group of students. They call the impact real and meaningful and want the Department of Education to step in and take action.

While past efforts against the names have focused on whether the names were “offensive”, a standard that is more difficult to define, DCR Director of Law and Policy Dan Levy says they have more than 100-journal articles confirming that the names have real and substantial negative consequences for Native American students.

A few years ago, the Marshall Redskins became the Redhawks, when local Native Americans brought a lawsuit. A few remain in the area: the Hartford Indians, the White Pigeon Chiefs, the Takonsha Indians and the Paw Paw Redskins.

 Some school districts will argue that they have large Native American populations and the team name is a source of pride, not a self-esteem issue for their students.  

The Michigan Department of Education has been urging districts to drop Native American mascots since 2003.

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