Change for Kickapoo

Kambria Braithwaite, Reporter

This past year, Kickapoo students have come together to create a new student activist group called Change for Kickapoo. The group quickly became well known through their Instagram account of the same name.

Created by Kickapoo sophomore Keeley Curtis, the campaign’s goal is to end the use of the Chief mascot and pre-game traditions the used headdresses and teepees as props. The agenda of the group is based on the cultural appropriation that the use of these symbols reinforces.

The group created a petition through that proposed removing the mascot and discontinuing insensitive and racist traditions. 

Curtis says, ”Racism is alive and well, and we as a school contribute to it with our mascot and cultural appropriation usages.”

The group was created back in January and quickly arranged meetings with school administrators to discuss the possible ways in which they would move forward.

As Curtis describes, “What made me start is whenever I commented on a post by Kickapoo of a kid wearing Native American attire, and I said it was cultural appropriation, and they turned the comments off.”

The interaction made Curtis wonder more about the underlying notes of Kickapoo High School traditions.

However, despite the support of many students and the understanding of some administrators, the end goal of the petition was left unmet. The petition secured over 3,000 out of the 5,000 desired signatures.

The group has a few public presentations including Keeley Curtis and Catelyn Ruble, as well as multiple anonymous representatives. This is due to a desire to maintain the peaceful learning experience of those who do not want backlash to pervade their educational experience.

According to Curtis,” There are several people who contribute to it, but most are anonymous. When it came to attacking someone, I knew we would get backlash and people would want someone to blame and give hate to. I go to online school, so for safety purposes, I let it be me. I didn’t want anyone in the group to get hurt.

The group gained publicity quickly but their mission lacked the amount of public traction they desired.

“The hardest thing is making people take us seriously. People don’t take teenagers seriously, so it’s hard for people to wrap their head around the fact that we’re a serious group,” said Curtis.

This comes even following statements in January from the Chairman of the Kickapoo Nation in Kansas, speaking out of his support for the organization and their pursuit of a mascot change.

After talks with administrators, the result of their efforts remains unclear.

“We still don’t know the final result. We want to change the mascot and all of the cultural problems. However, we have no idea how it will end.”

In the wake of the mascot controversy, Change for Kickapoo has doubled its focus to advocating for the rights of transgender students to use restrooms of their aligning gender. The group recently attempted a sit-in in the bathrooms located off of the Student Commons.

According to Curtis, “When it comes to the sit-ins, this is about transgender rights. Sex and gender are different. People deserve to be in the bathroom of their gender. It’s quite messed up that schools won’t allow students to be themselves and attend the bathroom of their gender.”

This shift in Change for Kickapoo’s agenda comes just after debates presented on the Missouri House floor regarding the right of transgender student-athletes. During the House debates, many of the arguments that were brought up in favor of increased legislation overlap with those currently being made concerning the use of high school restroom facilities.

In support of the proposed amendment, Republic Rep. Doug Richey among others suggested that male students might feign gender fluidity to gain access to girl’s locker rooms. 

Concerns similar to those of Rep. Richey arose surrounding the security and safety of students who would participate in the sit-in. However, before these concerns could be resolved, the event was postponed for unknown reasons.

As of now, there is no tentative rescheduling date, however, the group is very clear in its support of district-wide policy change regarding transgender restroom usage rights.

Curtis remarked, “As someone who is not transgender, I do not have too much of a say in transgender rights, but I do know that transgender rights are human rights. They deserve to be treated as humans, just like they are. I cannot see through the eyes of a transgender person, but it takes nothing to know that trans people deserve to be treated as people.”