Dowagiac Union Schools to keep ‘Chieftains’ logo

Published 1:13 pm Tuesday, August 15, 2023

DOWAGIAC — The Chieftains logo is here to stay.

The Dowagiac Union Schools Board of Education released a joint statement Monday night during its August meeting, announcing it would not be considering changing the current Chieftains logo after weeks of discourse surrounding the topic.

The board was asked for a formal position regarding a potential change of the district’s current Chieftains logo by the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Representation’s Outreach Board.

“The board is committed to continued engagement with the tribal council to ensure that the history and the culture of Michigan’s Native American, especially the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, remain an important part of the district’s curriculum and educational experience,” said DUS Board President Brent Brewer. “In large part because of this commitment and the long staining agreements between the council and the board, we respectfully decline to change our logo. As fully exemplified by the party’s history, the board and district have treated the Chieftains logo with dignity and respect. The board believes that the Chieftains logo has been an important and valuable part of facilitating students’ education and guarding Native American history and culture.”

Mike Winchester, a 1968 graduate of Dowagiac Union High School and Pokagon Band member, expressed his desire to see the district continue to use the Chieftains name and logo during public comment. 

“I look at the Chieftain name and it represents leadership,” he said. “The Chieftains is part of the fabric of the community. It’s not just a layer; It’s built into the Dowagiac people and it’s not just Native Americans, it’s all of its citizens.”

Winchester’s uncle, Joe Winchester, was the tribal chair of the Pokagon Band when the tribe and the school district reached an agreement on the current logo in the mid 1990s. The previous logo depicted a Native American wearing a traditional, full headdress. When Winchester informed then-DUS Superintendent Larry Crandall that the logo did not depict a Pokagon Potawatomi Indian, the school district turned over the logo to the tribe, and artist Ron Mix, to redesign the logo to better represent a Pokagon Band member. The logo that the tribe came back with is the logo that is still used today.

In addition, the partnership created programs to educate students and the public about the history of the tribe.

Winchester added that he believes it’s important for the community to take advantage of Pokagon Band community events, such as pow wows.

“We have (pow wows) every year and you can get a better idea of what the culture is like,” he said. “Dowagiac is our hometown, our home center for our tribe. I think it’s important to really know the background. We need to know the history.”