Saturday, October 23, 2004
At first, fans of Southeast Missouri State University's sports teams didn't believe the university was serious when it announced that the days of calling the teams the Indians and the Otahkians were numbered. Then some fans became angry, denouncing the decision in public forums. That anger began to dissipate as the university asked supporters to help choose the new nickname for both men's and women's teams. The teams will become the Redhawks in January.
Far from everyone is happy about the change, but the university has joined a list of schools that have discarded Indian-related nicknames that some Native Americans find offensive and that have become increasingly difficult to market.
The process of changing the nicknames has been similar to the one described by Swiss-born psychiatrist Dr. Elsabeth Kubler-Ross in her groundbreaking book "On Death and Dying." The university and its fans have witnessed the death of an 82-year-old tradition. We've been through denial and anger, and we've bargained -- third stage -- for ways to keep the name and have helped choose a new one.
In a dignified ceremony Friday, the university officially retired the Indian and Otahkian nicknames on the steps of Academic Hall.
The fourth stage of dying is depression, which could describe the mood during next few months before the teams become the Redhawks. In that period the university teams won't really have nicknames.
The final stage is acceptance. Come January, we will root for the Redhawks just as we rooted for the Indians and Otahkians. Time will have come.