While public backlash against Native American stereotypes has led professional and college sports teams to change their names, high schools across the US continue to use Native American-themed mascots and logos.
Some states – including Minnesota – have passed laws banning public school districts from using any nicknames, logos or mascots associated with Indigenous peoples. But for some schools, this may be costly and complicated.
Menhaga High School Located about three hours north of Minneapolis, right between the White Earth and Leech Lake Reservations. The Braves are the school district’s nickname, but now officials have been tasked with calculating the cost of erasing the name.
Menahga previously ditched its Indigenous mascot logo for the letter “M”, but district officials are trying another approach to keep its Braves name. Superintendent Jay Kjos, who has Indigenous ties and has been involved with Native American student unions, is trying to get the waiver.
“It took a long time to arrive [and] Thankfully, if we wrote a letter and got all 11 tribes to agree, they allowed people to be exempted. Then our waiver is approved,” Kjos told Scripps News. “And we will do what’s right, and whatever the tribes recommend we will do in Minnesota.”
To receive the waiver, school districts must obtain permission from all 11 federally recognized tribal nations in Minnesota and the state’s Tribal Nations Education Committee. If either party objects to the waiver by December 15, the school’s request will be denied.
However, no funding has been set aside to help districts pay for the mandated changes, as it was unclear who would apply for the exemption.
The M logo bearing the Braves nickname appears throughout the school, Kjos said. “It’s about our positive attitudes and support systems and the way we use the word ‘brave.’ We’ll be able to [the name change]”But it will impact our budget’s bottom line.”
The number of Minnesota school districts using Indigenous mascots or logos has dropped from 50 three decades ago to about a dozen. It’s something Kjos saw coming, but said he wouldn’t be doing his job for students if he didn’t respectfully ask for a waiver.
“I will wait and see what guidance I get from the waiver letter sent,” he said. “And I’ll make a plan with the committee and the teachers here [about] “How can we fulfill the letter and spirit of the law?”