Published February 9, 2017
PAW PAW, MICHIGAN – Under a banner with the words, “The future is now,” the Paw Paw Schools Board of Education voted 4 – 3 Wednesday night to keep the racist R-word as part of their identity. This, in spite, of dozens of American Indians from the region who for months have attended meetings declaring they object to the continued use by the school district to use the R-word and image, which they maintained is racist, offensive and does not honor American Indians.
Wednesday night’s vote was held during the board’s regularly scheduled meeting. The vote was on a motion to “fully re-institute the R-word and image at all Paw Paw Public Schools and not address the matter again until a single tax dollar is withheld.” Since 2015, the R-word imagery has only been allowed at the high school when the controversy began.
The vote towards the end of a contentious meeting that lasted over three hours.
The community members, many of whom wore red t-shirts with the racist R-word, came forward during the public comment section referred to the American Indians in the crowd as “them” and “those” people.
One community member, who claimed her house was vandalized on Wednesday inferred it was done by some American Indian(s).
“We never have had a house vandalized until them people came here,” as she looked over at the group of American Indians. No one on the school board objected to her implication.
However, one of the leaders of the anti-mascot group, Monica Padula (Saginaw Chippewa) was ejected from the meeting for being to “vocal” during the public comment portion of the meeting. Padula was escorted out of the meeting and out of the building by law enforcement officers.
Prior to being kicked out of the meeting, Padula made public comment telling the board they need to be accountable for what is in the school policy.
“Discrimination doesn’t get a vote. Misrepresentation doesn’t get a vote. Misappropriation doesn’t get a vote,” Padula stated.
After the meeting, Karen Ayres, president Paw Paw school’s Board of Education, said now that the board has voted, they will come together and unite.
The current Paw Paw school district logo uses a figure of a Sioux chief, which is a misrepresentation of images used by the People of the Three Fires (the Ojibwe, Ottawa and Potawatomi) who lived in Michigan prior to European or American contact. The Sioux lived, and still, live in the Great Plains region of the United States.
The meeting had strong police presence.
Some among the American Indians said there is a possibility there will be a lawsuit brought against the Paw Paw Schools for its continued use of the racist R-word and image.
Photos by Levi Rickert
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