SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– For more than a month, tensions have grown at Kickapoo High School regarding its mascot, which is a Native American chief.

It’s a situation that current students, alumni and even the Kickapoo tribe in Kansas have gotten involved in. 

A group of students started an online petition called “End cultural appropriation at Kickapoo High School.” Shortly afterwards, an alumnus started one of his own called “Keep the school name and mascot.” 

More than 3,000 people signed each petition — and the numbers keep growing. 

Jessi Honeycutt attended Kickapoo in 1992. 

“I really wished that the student population had done some research and understood our complex relationship with the native people,” Honeycutt said. 

She signed an online petition opposing the chief mascot.

“Using it to represent a white population is kind of in distaste and embarrassing,” Honeycutt said. “They don’t really understand how we’ve mistreated the native people and how we could use them in our sports teams seems really rude.”

Chris Roland feels differently.

“We would respect a police chief or fire chief right? It’s no different. It’s a respected position. It’s pertinent to the history of this area,” Roland said.  

Stephen Hall with Springfield Public Schools says Kickapoo has been called the “Chiefs” since it opened in 1971.

“This land was used by the Kickapoo Tribe and this was their home for many, many years. So, the intention in naming the school was to honor that legacy, and do it in a respectful manner,” Hall said. 

“They’re sitting there saying they want to honor us and represent us but they’re doing it in a dishonorable way and we’re trying to explain that to them,” Kickapoo Tribal Chairman Lester Randall said. 

Randall recently sent KHS a letter explaining what he says is an inaccurate representation of his tribe. 

“We definitely want to get the true part of the history out on the tribe instead of them just making us some kind of token Indian or something like that with how they have their mascots coming out of the thing with their headdresses on and out of a teepee,” Randall said. “I mean, all that stuff is inaccurate.” 

“It was very much appreciated, and we certainly respect that feedback very much,” Hall said.  

This week Randall also joined in on a meeting between Kickapoo administration and the leaders of both petitions. 

“It was very short. The students did a great job representing themselves,” Randall said. 

“The meeting was productive in that we were able to hear the voices of everyone at the table. And that’s what the purpose of the meeting was all about,” Hall said. “It was a very civil meeting. It was very respectful. We have very good people on both sides of this issue. We want them to know that their opinions and feedback matter to us.”

Below is the full letter issued by the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas:

Stephen Hall says SPS will review the feedback from this week’s meeting and then decide if more meetings need to happen later on. A decision on the mascot won’t be made until later this spring — at the earliest.

Hall says the decision will be made with caution and care.