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Genetski Fires Letter, Proposes Legislation on Native American Nickname Complaint


LANSING, MI (WHTC) - Is the Indians’ nickname worth about 440 thousand dollars a year to keep?

That may be the question Saugatuck Public Schools officials may be facing as their district is one of 35 statewide listed in a complaint filed by the state Department of Civil Rights with colleagues in the US Education Department, asking that all federal funding for those districts be halted until such monikers, symbols and costumed mascots for athletic teams that the DCR deems offensive to Native Americans be changed. The 440 grand is what the Lakeshore school district gets from Washington, about six percent of its overall budget.

While Superintendent Rolfe Timmerman and other Saugatuck officials have been told by district attorneys to sit tight on the matter until a decision from Washington is made, state House Representative Bob Genetski has authored a letter to the DCR, signed by several of his colleagues in the Legislature, requesting that the complaint be withdrawn so that the issue can be dealt with locally first. The Saugatuck Republican has also pledged to sponsor legislation that would have Lansing pay the costs of the nickname and mascot changeover, should the federal complaint be successful.

The only tangible signs of the “Indians” in Saugatuck are some names and a nearly 40-year-old Indian head painted in the gymnasium, as the district opted several years ago to emphasize the block S and the city’s name.