Berlin resident feels it is time to retire Indian mascot

To the Editor:

The article in the Feb. 4 Waushara Argus reported on the news from Berlin updating readers on the mascot issue. In addition to the information in the article, I would like to add additional facts concerning the issue. 

The survey that the district took on the issue with only 22 percent of the people who received a survey participating, showed that 78 percent of the residents in the district do not care if the mascot is changed. 

With over 90 percent of the Berlin High School students replying they prefer to retain the present mascot, it shows the students in Berlin are oblivious to many of the following facts:

The elected officials of the Green Lake Inter-Tribal Council (all 11 of Wisconsin’s federally recognized tribes) on numerous occasions have unanimously requested schools to please find an alternative logo or mascot.

The empirical (data based) research of Dr. Stephanie Fryberg, accepted by the American Psychological Association has confirmed these race-based mascots can harm all students. (This information can be found at indianmascots.com.)

The Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction has repeatedly confirmed support for the elimination of race-based nicknames and has requested schools with such nicknames to stop using them for over 20 years.

The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) has advised schools to stop using race-based mascots.

Since 1990, over 35 school districts in Wisconsin changed their mascot to honor these requests. Also Marquette University, Ripon College and LaCrosse University have changed their race-based mascots. 

At the Jan. 15, 2014, school meeting, Bob Sillanpa and Larry Zarnott, two former administrators who served the district for over 60 years, advised the board that it was time to retire the “Indian” mascot. Those who support the retention of the mascot say it is a way to honor Native Americans. Leadership among the tribes has told us for years they are not honored by these mascots.

If one could read all the editorials that have been written in support of the mascot you could see that all of them have one common denominator…that is they give no concern to how Native Americans feel about the issue, the very people whose names and images are being used. We are repeatedly told by the Native Americans, “We are people, not mascots.”

When Gov. Scott Walker signed the new mascot bill, in his letter to all tribal leaders he stated, “A better alternative is to educate people about how certain phrases and symbols that are used as nicknames and mascots are offensive to many of our fellow citizens.”

Until the education process takes place in Berlin they will continue “playing Indian” with no regard to the feelings of Native Americans.

/s/ Tom Sobieski, BHS 1962