Patch Readers Reject Newest Call to Change Utica High Chieftains' Nickname
Readers reacted strongly to news that the Michigan Department of Civil Rights filed a complaint that American Indian nicknames—such as the Chieftains—harm students education and should be banned.
To dozens of Shelby-Utica Patch readers, there is no correlation between high school nicknames and students' education and therefore, no reason why schools like Utica High School should be forced to reject their "Chieftains" identity.
The issue, which has been addressed numerous times in the past, returned to the forefront of conversation with a recent complaint filed by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.
In the complaint, the department argued that high school nicknames—such as Chieftains for Utica High School—harm students’ education. The department went on to ask the U.S. Department of Education to ban the use of American Indian mascots, nicknames and “imagery” at the high school level, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Utica was one of 35 high schools mentioned in 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 department said in a filing to the U.S. Department of Education.
"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."
- "To me, a Chieftain is a leader," wrote Patch reader Lisa. "I would think that is something people would WANT their kids to live up to. I see nothing disrespectful in that. The actual emblem also is not disrespectful - it is not poking fun at Native Americans or making them look bad by being cartoon-ish."
- "No, I don't think they should change the name," stated Paul Parpart. "I've always thought that an Indian type name for our sports team, would be more like a tribute to America's early heritage, rather than a deterrent."
- "I can't believe anyone even thinks this is an issue," added Deanna Aleck Kahler. "When I went to Utica, being a Chieftain was associated with positive attributes like being strong and proud."
But reader Joy Berry Johnson argued that a name change might not be such a bad idea.
"They should change it to Chiefs," Johnson wrote. "A chief is still a leader. A chieftain is specifically a native American leader ... Considering that they are there to learn not just cheer on a sports team, it's probably a very good idea to change the mascot."
What do you think? Tell us in the comments.