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Springfield’s Kickapoo High School phasing out old logo, changing other traditions, but keeping Chiefs mascot name

Published: Sep. 3, 2021 at 5:22 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 3, 2021 at 5:31 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Springfield’s largest high school is keeping its “Chiefs” mascot name but making several other changes as a result of concerns raised about its use of Native American symbols.

Some of those changes started when Kickapoo High School played its first home football game Friday night against Lebanon.

The teepee tent that the Chiefs usually run through as they take the field? Gone.

As was the student mascot wearing a headdress.

The team’s helmet logos that last year had a profile of a Chief wearing a headdress has also been changed and replaced by the letter “K” with a circle and feathers around it.

All of this and the other changes are in response to a controversy that started seven months ago when a student-led group called “Change for Kickapoo” called on the school to reconsider the use of the Native American mascot. The movement also garnered support from the chairman of the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas who said the imagery was derogatory and promoted stereotypes.

On online petition to change the mascot got 3,820 signatures while a counter petition led by a group of alumni wanting to keep the mascot got 4,804 supporters to sign-up.

Last spring school representatives met with both sides to try and work out a compromise.

“We met with both groups and the chairman of the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas,” said Kickapoo Principal Bill Powers. “And just listening to both sides we felt like there were some things that we could do better. We want to appropriately represent the Kickapoo people so we’ve started making those changes in small steps.”

“We want to make sure we’re not offending anyone or doing anything disrespectful or inaccurate,” added Kickapoo Senior Sally Cybulski, a member of the school’s student government committee.

While the Chiefs name will remain, the school is phasing out its logo that shows the Chief profiled in full headdress and moving to a logo with a block letter “K” and the word “Chiefs” with a spear and feather just below it.

The problem is the old logo is everywhere you look on campus from scoreboards to rugs to walls to doors to bleachers.

Powers said there is no timetable or estimate of the cost it will take to change out the logos.

“It’s going to take several years,” he said.

Some cheers have also been eliminated.

“The war chant has been removed from the play list so there should be no reason for a tomahawk chop to occur,” Powers said. “And if a student shows up wearing a headdress it will simply be a conversation of why that’s not appropriate.”

“Some students are upset and really want to do the tomahawk chop,” Cybulski said. “But as senior leaders we’re going to encourage some other chants we have made to try and keep the student section pumped. There has been some tension about it. Kids have been disagreeing. But one thing I have been proud to say is that I’ve seen a lot of civil conversations happening between our students.”

“We’re also in the process of renaming some events as well,” Powers added. “We have for example Freshman Frenzy, our orientation, which used to be called Pow-Wow.”

It’s all something the students are going to have to get used to as their world is changing in many ways.

“It’s not going to be the same as it used to but that already happened with COVID so we’re used to things being different,” Cybulski said. “I definitely have learned something from it. I want us to represent Kickapoo in the most historically-accurate way possible and I learned that the Kickapoo tribe didn’t wear headdresses and didn’t use teepees.”

Powers says the conversations about the topic will continue and that so far the chairman of the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas has been supportive.

“He said they’re small changes but in some cases they’re very big,” Powers said. “He also said it’s very meaningful to them that we’ve listened. And we want that conversation to be ongoing. It’s not a one-and-done situation and we also want to talk about education. In our initial conversations we did learn some things and we want to learn more.”

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