Okemos schools to consider 'Wolves' in place of 'Chiefs' mascot

·2 min read
The scoreboard and signage at Okemos High School's soccer field, seen April 29, 2021.
The scoreboard and signage at Okemos High School's soccer field, seen April 29, 2021.

OKEMOS — Okemos Public Schools could soon be known as the Wolves under a proposal the Board of Education will consider.

A committee tasked with recommending a new mascot to the board picked wolves from an original list of 10 nicknames. The board voted last year to do away with its longtime "Chiefs" moniker, considered by many to be an offensive caricature of American Indians.

The Board of Education meets Monday and will review the recommendation. They're expected to vote on the recommendation during a meeting on Feb. 14.

A student committee first had the Okemos community vote on 10 finalists:

  • Badgers

  • Bears

  • Coyotes

  • Eagles

  • Grizzlies

  • Ocelots

  • Ospreys

  • Otters

  • Owls

  • Wolves

More than 8,500 community members responded to a survey, according to Superintendent John Hood, and helped the committee narrow the list to four:

  • Eagles

  • Grizzlies

  • Owls

  • Wolves

Wolves proved to be a popular option through both surveys, said Superintendent John Hood in an emailed statement, and it was supported by current Okemos Public Schools students.

Board of Education President Mary Gebara "loves" the proposed new mascot, since wolves are an important part of the culture of many American Indian tribes, she said.

Moving on from the Chiefs mascot is a more than $400,000 effort that started last May when the Board voted to nix the nickname after years of debate.

More: The Okemos Chiefs face a name change 30 years in the making

During public hearings and information sessions, students, alumni, residents and American Indian leaders expressed opposition to the Chiefs nickname, while its proponents argued that the name was a way of honoring Chief Okemos, the town’s namesake.

The district has since begun the process of phasing out the Chiefs nickname, planning to remove imagery from uniforms, scoreboards, athletics fields, courts and other signage, perhaps most notably a turf field bearing the name.

The school district received $213,663.50 from the Native American Heritage Fund to help rebrand. It was the largest grant of 11 project grants totaling more than $480,000. The board of education has also committed to using general fund money if needed.

If the Board approves the proposed mascot, a similar process soon will begin to identify a new logo. A block “O” with “Okemos” running through it currently represents the school district. School colors will remain Carolina blue, maroon and white.

Community members will have additional opportunities to weigh in on the proposed mascot during the meetings on Monday and on Feb. 14, Gebara said.

She commended the work of the committee in leading the effort to find a new mascot, ultimately culminating in a unanimous recommendation to the Board of Education.

Hood previously expressed hope that the new logo would be selected by spring break in mid-April.

"We thank our community for their significant input throughout the process, and ask for support of our students as we move forward at this exciting time establishing our new district mascot," Hood wrote in the statement.

Contact Mark Johnson at 517-377-1026 or at majohnson2@lsj.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ByMarkJohnson.

This article originally appeared on Lansing State Journal: Okemos schools to consider 'Wolves' in place of 'Chiefs' mascot

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