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Raiders will stay, Tommy will go

American Indian representative says decision won't be final word

March 15, 2006

The School Board voted this week to keep the Red Raiders nickname at Wauwatosa East High School, but will remove all American Indian imagery, including the Tommy Raider caricature painted on a wall in the Raider Room in the basement of the school.

The motion to keep Red Raiders was opposed by board members Eileen Donohoo and Sharon Muehlfeld, who suggested it will be too difficult to disassociate the nickname from the current imagery.

Donohoo said she would have approved the motion if it included the removal of the word red, leaving the school team name to be Raiders.

"I don't think Red Raiders is a good nickname," Donohoo said. "It has Indian connotations."

Muehlfeld said she thought it was too soon to address any change to the name and hoped for further dialogue with the public and students. She suggested that the students be more involved and consulted further on the name.

East High School Principal Bill Stroud told Muehlfeld that if he was asked to go back and poll his students, he knew an overwhelming majority would vote to keep the name as is, as that is what he has been told by many since the topic arose.

In December, state Superintendent of Schools Elizabeth Burmaster sent letters out to all school districts in the state, asking that they get rid of any American Indian names, imagery or mascots.

Since that time, e-mails and letters from alumni, current students and parents asking the school to retain the Red Raider name has been overwhelming, Stroud said.

The School Board vote to retain the name came before an audience of 50 people March 13, about half the amount that showed up at the Feb. 13 board meeting when the board first discussed changing the East High nickname.

Of the 50 who attended March 13, only three were East students.

Stroud, along with other East High administrators and district Superintendent Phil Ertl, provided the recommendation to the board to retain the name, but drop the imagery.

Ertl said he believes the school will be successful in helping students disassociate the name Red Raiders from American Indian culture.

Stroud said he will look to the students and alumni to provide suggestions on a new logo.

He estimated that there is about $20,000 worth of athletic wear currently in use by East students in uniforms, warmups and coats bearing the Red Raiders spear logo, and he predicted it will cost at least $100,000 to remove the rest of the Red Raiders American Indian imagery from the school.

"It is painted on the walls and sewn into our flags, we have rubber mats and carpeting with the logo and we have awards, certificates and trophies," he said. "Even our school stationery has the arrow on it. It will all have to change."

Americans Indians in the audience did not support the board's move to keep the name, including Wauwatosa resident and East High parent David Bodoh, a member of the Ojibwe-Menomonee tribe. Still, he did say it was a step in the right direction.

"I guess it's a compromise I can live with, if the district does as it says it will and educates the students on the meaning of the symbols and the Native American culture," he said.

Mark Denning, director of Southeast Onieda Tribal Services, a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and member of an American Indian performance group, said after the meeting that he too believes the vote was a start.

Antonio Doxtator of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin and a Milwaukee resident said the Red Raider name, logo and Tommy Raider caricature mocked his culture and paints a violent picture of the American Indian.

"The Red Raider to us represents a warlike people," he said. "Rapists, murderers, thieves. It brings us back to the days when we heard phrases like 'a good redskin is a dead redskin.' We are peaceful people. It was not until we were pushed off our land and our land was ripped up that we had to fight to survive."

Doxtator said he would never let his own 9-year-old son attend a school where such imagery and nicknames continued to exist.

Stroud said he will form a committee of class leaders to help with the redesign of the logo and to determine how to best address issues such as students wearing Tommy Raider T-shirts at games.

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