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Changing of mascot, nickname right thing to do

To the Journal editor:

On behalf of the Justice and Peace Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan, church members, and other concerned citizens, I offer our support of the recommendation by the Marquette Senior High School Nickname Research Committee to the Marquette Area Public School Board of Education to change the school’s current mascot and nickname.

Both are objectifying and dehumanizing representations of Indigenous peoples. We feel the mascot and nicknames “Redmen” and “Redette” are not only hurtful to Indigenous members of the community, but to all who believe in human dignity, freedom and justice. As stated in the committee’s report, their use has created an adverse learning environment for some MAPS students because they are culturally insensitive and are not a source of pride for all MAPS students.

The Episcopal Church strives to live by our baptismal vows, including, “respecting the dignity of every human being.” When someone is subjected to a term, name, practice, or an image that is offensive or hurtful, it is not our place to question the validity of the claim. Rather, it is our responsibility to alleviate suffering, to tell the truth and to do the next right thing to repair breaches when they occur.

In the current case, we are called to recognize an injustice, to educate each other about the nature of this injustice and to follow the lead of local Indigenous leaders who recognize how to heal this unnecessary trauma.

As we work to educate ourselves about the Indigenous communities throughout the U.P., we learn about the collective trauma experienced by Indigenous peoples over many generations, and that contemporary issues of representation are more complex than many people realize or understand.

Letting go of dehumanizing mascots is a proactive and positive step toward dealing with a painful history of colonization. Removing impediments to a relationship is a non-competitive act of reconciliation. Choosing transformation opens our eyes to the Jesus in all of us.

We believe in a love that truly respects the dignity of each and every human being. Honoring the findings of the Committee is a step on the road of reconciliation with our Native American family.

We hope the MSHS mascot and nicknames are changed soon as an important first step in educating one another about the history of the people whose lands we inhabit.

Sincerely,

THE RT. REV. RAYFORD J. RAY

Bishop Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan

Marquette