“Remarks by Clem Ironwing, Sioux, during a public Mascot/Identity Committee hearing.” – November 11, 1996
In the spring of 1996 Wichita Unified School District 259, Wichita Kansas, formed a Committee on Desegregation. This committee made a unanimous recommendation to remove the REDSKIN mascot of 70 years used by one school in the district, Wichita North High School. In response to the recommendation of removal the principal of Wichita North High School formed another Mascot/Identity Committee to make a recommendation to the Site Council at North High School who would then make a recommendation to him on the future of the long standing REDSKIN mascot.
The following remarks were made by Clem Ironwing, Sioux, November 11, 1996, during a public hearing called by the Mascot/Identity Committee. Denied a seat on the Committee, Mr. Ironwing, an elder, was given three minutes standing alone on the school stage in front of three television stations, local radio stations and the Wichita Eagle newspaper in front of an audience of 250 to explain why it is not right for the school to continue using this mascot. His remarks follow:
“The word Redskin was taught to me at a very young age, and this is the meaning it has for me.
“I am a Native American. I grew up on an Indian reservation. As a child, the United States Government and the Catholic Church came into our homes, took us away from our families, and forced us into Catholic boarding schools. There was no choice to be had in this matter, you had to go. The Catholic Church with the blessings of the United States Government took it upon themselves to determine that we were savages, and needed to be transformed to fit into their society.
“When my hair was cut short by the priests, I was called a “redskin” and a savage. When I spoke my native tongue, I was beaten and called “redskin”. When I tried to follow the spiritual path of my people, I was again beaten and called a “redskin”. I was told by them to turn my back on the ways of my people, or I would forever be nothing but a dirty “redskin”.
“The only way “redskin” was ever used towards my people and myself was in a derogatory manner. It was never, ever, used in a show of respect or kindness. It was only used to let you know that you were dirty and no good, and to this day still is.
“A long time ago, a group of people who had no knowledge of these facts, and who put no thought into what “redskin” actually meant chose to use this word for their mascot. A new group of people, now being confronted about it, have somehow decided it is their decision to change the meaning of this word to fit their purposes and agendas, but again have put no thought into its true meaning or what this word means to Native Americans.” –by Clem Ironwing, Sioux