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March 04, 2014 | 05:25 PMWALWORTH — Big Foot High School District Administrator Dorothy Kaufmann said she was surprised by a recent letter she received.
“They’re asking us to change our logo and mascot,” Kaufmann said at the Feb. 27 school board meeting.
The Wisconsin Indian Education Association’s letter, dated Feb. 12, asks the school board to “engage in a thoughtful review of the issue and trends” and “develop lasting educational partnerships” with Wisconsin Native American tribes.
“At this time, Wisconsin Indian Education Association is asking your school district to eliminate its race-based ‘Indian’ related team name, logo or mascot stereotype out of respect for Wisconsin’s Native nations,” the letter states.
Kaufmann said the letter seemed like a “form letter” that the association probably sent to multiple schools around the state, but she said Big Foot’s use of “Big Foot” and the “Chiefs” team name is not derogatory or disrespectful.
“Our school is built on Indian land,” she said. “The district name is in honor of Chief Big Foot. Really it’s embedded in who we are.”
Big Foot High School doesn’t have a mascot. In front of the school is a statue of Chief Big Foot, which Principal Mike Hinske said was a gift to the district when the school building was renovated about 15 years ago.
Hinske said the school’s sports teams use a “running BF” logo, with the B and F joined together on the jerseys.
“Any representation we use other than the BF logo is based on the statue in front of the school,” he said in a phone interview Feb. 28.
Hinske said during the board meeting that the district had received similar letters in the 1990s requesting a mascot change.
“I don’t think any of the members of the group have ever been to the school,” Hinske said at the meeting.
Board Clerk Gretchen McCarthy said the Big Foot name is used appropriately at the school. She said the naming of the school is a “different situation.”
The board agreed to not respond to the letter and will seek legal advice if additional requests for change come to the district.
In January, the board agreed to ask district voters to raise the revenue limit on a referendum on the April ballot. Since then, the district has been trying to reach as many residents as possible.
Board members may have learned a lesson from its last failed attempt at a referendum in April 2013. This time, they’ve added referendum information to the high school’s website and created a Facebook page.
Hinske said the district will be represented at the Geneva Lake West Chamber of Commerce candidate forum.
“We’ll be there and able to answer any questions,” he said at the board meeting. “We just found out that we did secure a spot at that forum.”
Gretchen also said the referendum is being discussed in her children’s classrooms.
After school, her son said they did a little math in his chemistry class about the cost per house for passing the referendum.
In the two weeks preceding the election, district residents should see newspaper ads and direct mailings, reminding them about the election.
The board set a limit of $2,500 on printing and advertising costs.