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Posted on Tue, Feb 28, 2012 : 1:10 p.m.

Big Reds and Native American symbols: Should Milan eliminate them?

By Cindy Heflin

The Milan school board is once again wrestling with the issue of Native American symbols and imagery associated with Big Reds, the name of its sports teams.

Superintendent John Leacher said the board may consider a resolution on eliminating Native American symbols from uniforms and buildings in the district.


Native American imagery has already been removed from some team uniforms and school buildings. In this file photo, Milan's Samantha Coon makes a layup over Marta Formoso Prada in November.

File photo

Although district officials say the nickname arose from the use of red uniforms and was not originally associated with Native Americans, images such as a spear and feather have become associated with teams over the years. Also, the high school gymnasium bears a Native American image.

Milan resident James Farrar has asked the school board at its last two meetings to adopt a policy banning the use of such images, the Milan News-Leader reported. At the most recent meeting, about 30 people spoke about the issue, many urging the board to keep the symbols, the newspaper reported. Others wanted the board to adopt a consistent symbol, noting that various teams have adopted their own symbols.

The district wrestled with the issue a decade ago and decided to keep the Big Reds name then, but did not adopt a policy on Native American imagery, the newspaper reported

Administration has been informally phasing out the use of the symbols in recent years, Leacher said.

Administrators are discussing the issue and consulting with legal counsel, Leacher said. It’s not yet clear whether the board will take up the issue.

“I’m listening to what everybody has to say. It’s a difficult thing to wade through and determine what’s best for Milan and what’s best for all of our residents. We don’t want to offend anyone and we don’t want anyone to not feel welcome in our schools.”



Wed, Apr 18, 2012 : 3:07 p.m.

If the news would keep the name of the person starting the name change issue out of the article there would be far less people looking for reasons to come up with issues of little consequence.


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 4:49 a.m.

Ypsi succumbed to this a few years back. While the claim may be that it is disparaging, getting rid of these mascots will help fade the contributions of indigenous people rather than grow it. Another funny thing is the watertower still has the "Braves" on it, not enough money to go the extra distance.


Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 11:38 p.m.

My apologies for the spelling error. The word is Picket. Go Big RED...


Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 11:37 p.m.

"Milan resident James Farrar has asked the school board at its last two meetings to adopt a policy banning the use of such images." One person does not represent a MAJORITY. Their were 5,836 people as of the 2010 census in Milan. Milan resident James Farrar needs to grab a piket sign and protest the cause of the Native Americans incarcerated across the expressway at the Federal Prison. Those Native Americans have a real cause that should be addressed. This is exactley how Eastern and Ypsilanti High lost their beloved mascots and namesakes. They listened to the MINORITY ! Citizens of Milan and Big Red alumni, stand up and do not let this go any further.


Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 8:39 a.m.

Why not ask the native's if they mind. A symbol belongs to the people for communications of a group who is independent of other groups. Now these symbols become property of other groups if they need to com. with each-other. Say for food, they have to know their signs because the language differs. I say that the symbols have become common knowledge, and as it belongs to all of us, but now comes the question of what does the symbol represent. I would believe it has something to do with being tough or warriors,"per say" I think perhaps they should keep it.

Claire Neff

Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 1:59 a.m.

There are so many errors in this article. Bryan Girbach is the Superintendent of Milan Area Schools - not John Leacher. Milan High School gym does NOT have a Native American image. This issue was raised when the new school was being designed and the only "mascot" in the building is the red M.


Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 12:18 p.m.

AA2 doesn't ever leave the city of AA how would they know what the school has on the gym floor!


Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 2:22 a.m.

Claire, Are you trying to confuse us with facts?

Dishonored Hippie

Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 1:22 a.m.

I'm a "hippie" and resent your "...just some over sensitive "hippie"..." remark, Mr. Koczman. I'll have you know I played high school at Milan. We had a winning season, we were proud then, still are. We played football for the Milan Big Reds, not the "Fightin' Injuns", or the "Wagon Burners", or the "Cowboy Killers". Get over it Farrar, don't you have bigger fish to fry?

Greg Koczman

Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 2:50 a.m.

oh, and clowns, and dogs....but "wagon burners??? Come on dude?

Greg Koczman

Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 2:50 a.m.

my bad, I guess i did single out red heads and bee keepers

Greg Koczman

Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 2:42 a.m.

I went to school there as well! I'm also sorry that you seem to be as sensitive as Mr. Farrar. I most definitely wasn't singling you out. In many ways, I would consider my friends, family and myself hippies. A hippie can be any sex, race or religion. I didnt single any one group of people out as you did in you poor attempt at a joke! Also, I'm very happy that you had a winning season, but what does that have to do with anything....GO BIG REDS!


Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 12:34 a.m.

Is James Farrar a native american I think not,If the native care let them go in front of the school board


Tue, Feb 28, 2012 : 11:20 p.m.

My children both went to MSU, GO GREEN ! Oops, am I offending any Martians?


Tue, Feb 28, 2012 : 8:26 p.m.

The only offensive names of sports teams are the professional ones that have kept their original monikers after moving to a different city. Here's three examples: The Los Angeles (formerly Minneapolis) Lakers? There isn't a lake anywhere around LA! The Utah (formerly New Orleans) Jazz? Utah is known for many things, but their jazz history and culture certainly isn't one of them. And the Memphis (formerly Vancouver) Grizzlies? When was the last time you saw a sizable bear population anywhere in the Memphis area? LOL...


Tue, Feb 28, 2012 : 8:55 p.m.

As chance would have it, I recently read 'A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett' by David Crockett himself, and he claimed " about one month I killed forty-seven more, which made one hundred and five bears I had killed in less than one year from that time." That time being 1812, and during that outing he also killed several elk and a more than a few deer. He also was concerned about the massive after-shocks rumbling from the great earthquake of 1811. He thought he might be swallowed up.


Tue, Feb 28, 2012 : 8:24 p.m.

I'm proud to say that my old high school never offended anyone with its mascot, mainly because nobody knows what a Purgolder is, making it completely PC. Imagination was in short supply at its inception, and purple and gold were school colors, hence Purgolder.


Tue, Feb 28, 2012 : 8:10 p.m.

And less offensive than "Buckeyes"


Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 12:16 p.m.



Tue, Feb 28, 2012 : 8:10 p.m.

Here is a link to a more complete story on this ridiculous subject. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> This is no more offensive than Pioneers Boilermakers Celtics Cowboys

Greg Koczman

Tue, Feb 28, 2012 : 8:24 p.m.

in the heritage article, they wrote that Mr. Farrar was selling raffle tickets at $25 a piece to buy the 23 sports teams new banners. Maybe this guy should think about donating this money to the school for things like BOOKS, COMPUTERS and other supplies that are actually important!

Greg Koczman

Tue, Feb 28, 2012 : 8:06 p.m.

Get a life people! It would be one thing if a Native American group presented this argument but 98% of the time it's just some over sensitive &quot;hippie.&quot; Whats next, red heads are going to complain that clowns mis represent them?? How about dog owners going after the Chelsea and Brighton Bulldogs??? Maybe the bee keeper community have an issue with the Saline Hornets?? Come on, It's a nickname.


Tue, Feb 28, 2012 : 7:49 p.m.

Stupid political correctness that needs to be dumped.


Tue, Feb 28, 2012 : 7:46 p.m.

I'd really like to know what the motive is of the person that started this, and whether they even discussed this with any Native Americans to see how they feel about. Now that would make a good story.


Tue, Feb 28, 2012 : 7:46 p.m.

isn't it a shame that Americans are being pressured to remove Iconic symbols of the past!


Tue, Feb 28, 2012 : 7:26 p.m.



Tue, Feb 28, 2012 : 7:12 p.m.

I agree with checking with the local tribal members to see how they feel about this. If the symbols and names used are honoring the Native Americans, then how can it be deemed offensive? I am very tired of people throwing around the &quot;I'm offended&quot; phrase for everything! It hardly has any value these days. As for the &quot;River Rats&quot;, they used to be the &quot;Hurons&quot; until someone deemed it &quot;offensive&quot;. I am wondering when Notre Dame will have to let go of their title &quot;The Fighting Irish&quot;. Isn't that offensive to the Irish? What about teams with animal names? Doesn't that offend PETA? See how silly this can get? Can we no longer be proud of anything?

Sandy Castle

Tue, Feb 28, 2012 : 8:16 p.m.

Huron High NEVER used &quot;Hurons&quot; as their mascot. That was the name the school district intended to use but they put the choice of name to the student body and in the end the choice was for the River Rats. <a href="" rel='nofollow'>;t=c&amp;s=football&amp;p=about</a>


Tue, Feb 28, 2012 : 6:59 p.m.

How do the Native Americans feel about this? If I were Native American which I'm not, I would fight tooth and nail to keep my heritage in the spot light. And would be offended by someone with white guilt saying it was demeaning. To me its a sign of great respect to have your heritage on a schools uniform. I still feel sad for the Hurons that lost support from EMU.


Tue, Feb 28, 2012 : 6:53 p.m.

IT would seem that the symbols that schools use are do largely to the respect of that symbol ( except things like river rats ). I'm sure many native American are not offended by the use of these images. We name schools after people that we consider brave- like Washington and Jefferson, Marten Luther King and even Pontiac.


Tue, Feb 28, 2012 : 6:42 p.m.

I am native, I am an actively enrolled tribal member, I could care less. As long as the imagery is not offensive, degrading, or &quot;overly stereotypical&quot; I see nothing wrong.


Tue, Feb 28, 2012 : 6:37 p.m.

I was disappointed when my Alma Mater EMU dumped the Hurons for the Eagles. To me, the use of the Hurons shows that someone in EMU's past thought that the Hurons were a symbol of strength and positive virtue. Is this bad?


Wed, Apr 18, 2012 : 3:01 p.m.

I was a Huron and always will be.