MI senator aims to ban use of Redskins mascot


LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s become a seemingly endless debate: should schools in West Michigan get rid of the Redskins mascot?

Belding’s school board voted to drop it months ago. They’re now the Black Knights. But other schools, like Paw Paw and Saranac, have decided to keep it.

Now, state Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, wants to settle the argument once and for all. He’s introduced a bill that would ban the use of the Redskins mascot for public schools in Michigan.

“The term ‘Redskin’ is highly offensive. Especially to Native Americans, to American Indians,” Schmidt told 24 Hour News 8 over the phone Friday.

Schmidt serves Michigan’s 37th Senate District, which covers the northwest part of the Lower Peninsula and the eastern part of the Upper Peninsula. There are five tribal governments in his district. He said this new legislation was crafted with their help — and with them in mind.

“This is an important issue to them,” Schmidt said. “They’re not saying, ‘let’s get rid of any references to Native Americans or American Indians’ — but this particular term (Redskin) is particularly offensive.”

The ongoing debate has sparked major controversy in West Michigan over the past several months, especially for Paw Paw schools. Protestors have lined up at baseball games, and school board meetings have become heated over the issue. Those who argue in favor of the Redskins mascot say that it’s not malicious — and a source of pride for their community.

“I understand passions for people’s schools,” Schmidt said. “I think they can still have that pride, but change the terminology.”

The bill is brand new, it was just introduced on Thursday. It has no co-sponsors, is still in committee and has a long way to go.

“Well, I think we’re going to have to work the process,” Schmidt said when asked how confident he was that the bill would become law. “But one of the key goals is bringing awareness to the situation.”

Schmidt said the tribal governments in his district have even provided money to schools that have changed their mascot or their uniforms. It’s unclear if that would happen in our West Michigan.

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Online:

Senate Bill 487