Watertown is finally joining the 21st century and eliminating the racially insensitive aspects of its “Ki-Yi Days” homecoming celebration. Under the guidance of superintendent Dr. Lesli Jutting, students and Watertowners have rewritten their local homecoming fable to remove all references to Native Americans. They are changing the name from the “Ki-Yi Legend” to the “Legend of the Arrows.” Students will replace the mock Indian garb of their homecoming ceremony with medieval costumes.
To justify this change, Dr. Jutting cites research on the harmful effects of Native American mascots and other cultural misappropriation on Native students. That research apparently hasn’t traveled an hour up the road to Sisseton, where the school board voted May 25 to keep the “Redmen” logo, medicine man, and other pilferings of tribal culture in its homecoming activities. The board has resisted suggestions from its large Native American population to make changes. At its June 13 meeting, the Sisseton board heard a letter from Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate chairman David Flute urging them to “Please add discussion and a motion to the agenda, and change your votes so that we may move on from this issue and continue to build and strengthen a relationship for the betterment of the children of this community.” The board acknowledged the letter and moved on to other business.
The May 25 vote to keep homecoming Red was 4–3, with one member abstaining and another absent. Tomorrow folks in Sisseton get a chance to vote to make the school board more Red:
This Tuesday June 21 there is a School Board elections in Sisseton-Three seats are up for election. There are six candidates running, three of those running are Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Tribal members Debra Flute, Dr. Sherry Johnson, and Tom Wilson. The hope is to fill all three open seats with Tribal members. With Tribal members on the school board the school board will more accurately depict the diversity of our community. Sisseton, South Dakota is a small town with many wonderful attributes: a thriving arts community, many progressive residents, and an overall sense of comradery, [sic] hopefully soon our small town will follow the lead of communities all across the nation in changing outdated and detrimental mascots and homecoming coronations [Sierra Wolcott, “Same Ol’ Same Ol’,” Sota Iya Ye Yapi Online, downloaded 2016.06.20].
Wolcott writes that Native Americans make up about 60% of the student body at Sisseton, compared to less than 10% at Watertown. If Watertown can recognize the need for changing its racist homecoming practices, so can Sisseton. We’ll see if tomorrow’s election results move Sisseton in that direction.
Update 10:10 CDT: The Sisseton school district appears to post no information about tomorrow’s election online, but I learn from Wolcott that the three candidates joining the three SWO candidates on Tuesday’s school board ballot for the three available seats are incumbents Jenny Evenson and David Nelson and challenger Jeannie Hubert. Evenson voted for the May 25 resolution to leave the homecoming coronation unchanged; David Nelson voted against that resolution.