Cherokees seek input on SEMO nickname

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

An American Indian group based in Cape Girardeau wants other American Indians to share their thoughts about Southeast Missouri State University's proposal to retire the Indian nicknames for the school's sports teams.

Formed during Native American Month in November 2000 as a nonprofit organization, the American Indian Center of the Heartland plans to solicit opinions from the region's American Indians and make recommendations to a university committee studying the issue.

Mike and Glinda Ladd Seabaugh founded the center to promote American Indian culture and give a voice to tribal groups who live in the region. The center is located at 811-A Broadway above the couple's Cherokee Trails gift shop.

Glinda Seabaugh, who is full-blooded Cherokee and a student at Southeast, said the university nickname issue will be discussed at the center's May 8 meeting. About 35 to 40 people, all of American Indian ancestry, have been attending the center's monthly meetings, she said.

Seabaugh said the university committee and a recently formed subcommittee are looking at finding a way for the school to promote American Indian heritage and culture "in a dignified and acceptable manner." Seabaugh serves on the subcommittee.

The university committee has narrowed the list of prospective nicknames down to five: Red Hawks, Red Wolves, Red Birds, Explorers and Sentinels.

Committee members, following in the footsteps of other campus groups, have concluded that the Indian mascot is demeaning to American Indians and their history and culture.

The university committee, appointed by school president Dr. Ken Dobbins, continues to seek public input on the issue.

The committee has changed its schedule of meetings seeking public input on five suggested nicknames to replace the school's Indian and Otahkian nicknames.

Public forums, initially planned for noon today and May 5, have been canceled. Committee members said documentaries on Native American issues will be shown at 7 tonight in the University Center Indian Room.

Public forums will be held on April 28 at noon in the University Center Missourian Room and on May 12 at 7 p.m. in Academic Auditorium.

Committee members announced the original meeting dates before the schedule had been finalized.

Seabaugh used to consider the "Indian" nickname offensive, but she changed her mind after talking to other American Indians in the area.

"I think they could keep the nickname, but have a different mascot," she said.

Men's sports teams at Southeast are known as the "Indians." The women's teams carry the "Otahkian" nickname after a Cherokee woman who died during the Trail of Tears forced march in the 1800s that passed near Cape Girardeau.

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