The state of Wisconsin and a local high school are engaged in a high stakes game of financial chicken in a face off between school rights and the need to protect the sanctity of Native American culture.
As reported by Wisconsin ABC affiliate WISN and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, among other sources, Mukwonago (Wis.) High and the state of Wisconsin are embroiled in a bitter dispute in which the state is trying to force the high school to change its mascot from the Indians to any non-Native American inspired nickname. The adjustment was made necessary by a state bill that was passed in 2010 but required all schools to rid themselves of Native American-related mascots by Thursday, August 15.
That date has now passed, and by the letter of the Department of Public Instruction law the state reserves the right to fine Mukwonago as much as $1,000 for each day in which it is in violation of the rule. The school has pending litigation which has temporarily pushed the fineable deadline back to October 8.
Despite the potentially massive fine, the school has thus far refused to back down, inspired by students who say they are "terrified" they won't be able to graduate under the same moniker as their predecessors.
"My daughter, Mariah, will be a senior this year, and she was just terrified that they weren't going to be able to graduate as the Indians like her older siblings have," said parent Crystal Rozanske.
"A lot of the kids, like, my age we would look forward to being the Indians and representing that. So it's going to be a big change and disappointment," said Rozanske's daughter, Sierra.
Meanwhile, Mukwonago superintendent Shawn McNulty insists that they have done everything they can to "educate our students" about Native American culture to promote sensitivity. McNulty is now actively asking the state legislature to repeal the law, though there is reportedly nothing in the works to re-visit the rule.
The superintendent has plenty of popular local support via an online group set up on Facebook. Similarly, an online Journal Sentinel poll found that 84 percent of respondents agreed with Mukwonago's decision to stand firm on the school's choice of mascot.
Rather, the law has been positively seen by Native American groups and has helped all other Native American-based mascots that could be deemed offensive to be changed.