Thursday panel wants Chippewa nickname changed

Nathan Kostegian | Staff Photographer Dr. Ben Ramirez-Shkwegnaabi opens up the Chippewa Nickname Forum Nov. 5th at 3 p.m. in the U.C. Auditorium. The forum was an opportunity for the community to discuss what it means to be a Chippewa and how the imagery of Native Americans was and is used in collegiate sports.

Mount Pleasant junior Joshua Hudson is strongly against the use of the Chippewa name in representation of Central Michigan University.

“This is not a mascot issue. This is a human rights issue,” Hudson said.

A forum was held Thursday night to discuss different views on the use of the nickname “Chippewas.”

The main topic of discussion was whether the Chippewa name should be changed. All panel members were in agreement, believing the nickname should be changed. But they think a change was not likely to happen overnight.

“I think it should be revisited by the school and the tribe, but I think it definitely has to go,” said panelist Ben Hinmon, a member of the Saginaw Indian Chippewa Tribe.

Though the panel was unanimous, students had varying opinions on the use of a Chippewa to represent CMU.

Mount Pleasant graduate student Marsha Mullins does not feel like the nickname is disrespectful.

“I don’t think it’s offensive. The school handles it with tact. We don’t use degrading caricatures or a mascot,” Mullins said.

Others speaking on the panel were University of Wisconsin professor Sonny Smart, Assistant professor of history Stephen Jones, associate professor of history Benjamin Ramirez-shkwegnaabi and Charlene Teters, professor at the Institute of Indian Arts.

Each panelists spoke on the issue of Native Americans being used as mascots, as well as their personal thoughts and experiences with the issue.

Having dealt with a similar situation, Teters was a perfect candidate to speak on this topic. Teters fought against her own school, University of Illinois, for their use of Chief Illiniwek as the mascot when she was in college. She was featured in the documentary “In Whose Honor?,” a film about the outrage of Native American mascots being used in collegiate athletics.

“A university should be a place where all people’s identities are respected,” Teters said.

Colleen Green, director of Native American Programs, feels a forum like this one should be held yearly because of the importance of the topic. She said the topic has not really been touched on in a long time, possibly five to 10 years.

“Because we have this nickname we are to respect these people. This forum is a good articulated reminder that students do need to be respectful and aware,” she said.

Cheboygan senior Tonya Neuman, a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Ojibwe Tribe, objects to the use of the Chippewa.

“I would have to say personally I disagree with the nickname and think that it should be changed. Even if one person is offended by it then it’s a problem,” she said.

The event was co-sponsored by the Office of Native American Programs, Office for Institutional Diversity and College of Humanities and Social Behavioral Sciences.