SEMO to retire Indian, Otahkian nicknames Oct. 22

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Southeast Missouri State University officially will say goodbye to its Indian and Otahkian nicknames at a retirement ceremony on Oct. 22 in front of Academic Hall, school officials said Wednesday.

But a logo for the new Redhawks nickname, adopted unanimously by the board of regents in June, won't be unveiled until January.

The university has hired Phoenix Design Works of New York, a sports design firm, to help develop the logo at a maximum cost of $12,000. The cost includes all travel expenses.

University president Dr. Ken Dobbins said the expense is worth it. "They know what sells. They know what people buy and how to depict your mascot," he said.

Southeast's Booster Club is paying the cost for the design work, Dobbins said.

The design process will include meetings with focus groups to obtain input from students, boosters and other campus constituents.

"Everybody can now be part of the new tradition," the university president said.

The design process could take three months, school officials said.

The university administration plans to update the regents on plans for the new logo and mascot when the board meets Friday. The meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. in Dempster Hall's Glenn Auditorium.

Besides hearing about the logo and mascot plans, the board is scheduled to award a contract for a new health insurance plan that would take effect for employees and retirees on Jan. 1.

As for the school's new Redhawks nickname, school officials hope to show off the logo and the costumed mascot in conjunction with the men's and women's basketball games against Austin Peay University on Jan. 22. The Indian and Otahkian nicknames will be in use until that time, said Don Kaverman, director of athletics at Southeast.

The men's teams are referred to as the Indians. The women's teams are called the Otahkians, a reference to a Cherokee woman who died on the Trail of Tears forced relocation to the Oklahoma territory in the 1800s.

Kaverman is heading up the logo committee. A separate campus committee headed by Dr. Charles Wiles, Southeast's sports marketing director, has begun meeting to develop a mascot costume as well as rules for its use.

Wiles said the university needs a mascot that will represent the school's new nickname but also be a likable character like the St. Louis Cardinals' Fred Bird. "We have never had a mascot that could run into the stands and hug your kids," he said.

A friendly mascot could be in demand at everything from local schools to shopping malls, Wiles said.

A serious-looking mascot won't interest children or Southeast students, Wiles said.

There are many issues to consider in developing a mascot, he said. Will there be more than one mascot costume? Will more than one student portray the mascot?

Southeast has 16 sports teams and holds about 100 athletic events a year, Wiles said. A mascot can't be at all of them, he said.

Wiles said his committee likely will use the Internet to obtain public comment on a nickname for the Redhawks mascot character and school officials have suggested having mascot tryouts to decide who will represent the university.

The retirement of the Indian and Otahkian nicknames will be held at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 22. Following the ceremony, there will be a 7 p.m. reception in the University Center Party Room. Native American musician Bill Miller will perform that evening in Academic Hall Auditorium.

Miller also is scheduled to play Native American flute music on the steps of Academic Hall at the retirement ceremony.

School officials said the ceremony will include an honor guard of Native American military veterans in traditional dress.

Kaverman will discuss the university's longtime use of the Indian and Otahkian nicknames.

Carol Spindel, author of "Dancing at Halftime," will give the keynote speech. Spindel's book explores the controversy over the Chief Illiniwek mascot used by the University of Illinois. Don Dickerson, president of the board of regents, is expected to issue an official retirement proclamation at the ceremony.

Dr. Ed Leoni, health and recreation professor and a member of the retirement planning committee, said future plans likely include creation of a mural and a sculpture that would pay homage to the area's Amercian Indian heritage.

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