MARQUETTE, Mich. (WZMQ) – After nearly five hours of comments from the public and board members, the Marquette Area Public School board voted 4-3 to officially retire the Redmen nickname. MAPS Board members Cherryl Maddox-Smith, Jennifer Klipp, Glenn Sarka, and Jennifer Ray voted in support of the name change, while Jason Zdunek, James Hewitt, and Kristen Cambensy in opposition.
It’s been a contentious topic within the community for many years. Some people wanted the nickname changed because they feel it was offensive. Others wanted the Redmen nickname kept because they felt it wasn’t intended to be offensive, and is part of the school’s history of wearing the color red. Public commenter Pamela Mottonen said that growing up at MSHS, she never had an issue with the use of the mascot or the nickname.
“The Native Americans were chosen as mascots for many schools and sports,” Mottonen said. “Because they’ve represented and focused on bravery, courage, and resourceful skills rather than anything insulting or derogatory.”
The Native American chief headdress logo was officially retired in 2020, after being unofficially retired a decade earlier, and replaced with a block “M,” but the Redmen and Redettes nicknames remained. In 2019, a committee was formed by the school board to look into potentially changing the nickname.
Now that community meetings have reconvened, the school board wanted to bring the nickname discussion back to the table. There were a number of meetings discussing the topic over the years, but no decision was ever made until Monday night.
Rodney Loonsfoot, a Keweenaw Bay Indian Tribal Council Member, has been working along side the council to create resolutions declaring the tribe’s opposition, and provide the school board with documentation of multiple tribes declaring support in changing mascots.
“I wanted to come here and not just represent what I wanted to share, my kids went to school here too, but then also now to represent the voices of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community with our opposition to mascots,” Loonsfoot said. “This is a really good day for our kids to be able to see that.”
MAPS School Board Vice President Sarka says there’s still hard work ahead, working with students and community members to come up with a new nickname for Marquette Area Public Schools.
WZMQ had a reporter at the MAPS school board meeting Monday night and will provide more details as the story develops.