Ypsilanti — "Once a Huron, always a Huron."
That's the mantra of some Eastern Michigan University alumni who still consider themselves Hurons even though the university dropped the mascot in 1991 to avoid negative stereotypes about Native Americans.
Now, more than 20 divisive years later, EMU has sanctioned the Huron mascot to be back on campus.
The EMU Marching Band will sport the logo on its new uniforms Saturday, when the football team takes on Illinois State at the home-opening game at Rynearson Stadium. Although the uniform's Huron logo won't be easily visible, the move is part of several university efforts to unite EMU alumni — especially those who are still vocal about the dropped mascot and won't financially support the university.
Band members are thrilled about the uniforms, and many say they are honored to be wearing EMU's mascot traditions.
The Eagles — the current mascot — is written on the back of the uniform's cap. On the front of the jacket is a large E. Open the jacket and two of the school's former logos appear: the Huron, along with the Normalite, used by the university when it was founded.
"We're such a united family," said Adam Sniezek, 21, a drum major from Dearborn Heights. "It's so special we can carry on the traditions of our alma mater."
Some alumni cheer the move.
"I am a Huron and always will be," said Jennifer Ramirez, a Shelby Township art teacher who graduated from EMU in 1996. "It's about time people stood up and said, 'Let's bring it back.'"
Reinstating the Hurons is just one of several ways the university is starting to nod to and celebrate its past, said EMU President Susan Martin, who came up with the idea with alumni to include the Huron mascot on the 275 new band uniforms.
"We still have Normalites who went to Michigan State Normal and are alive and wear their Normalite logo with pride," Martin said. "We have many, many Hurons who are still Hurons in their heart to this day. And, of course, we have been the Eagles for 20 years.
"It's showing respect to the past but embracing the fact that we are all together under the block E and love Eastern."
Not everyone likes seeing Native American mascots.
"I don't like native people being used as mascots in any situation," said American Indian Services Director Fay Givens, who was a vocal supporter of changing the Huron mascot in 1991.
When EMU was founded in 1849 as Michigan State Normal College, its athletic teams were known as the "Normalites" and "Men from Ypsi."
A contest was sponsored in 1929 to rename the mascot and two students submitted the winning name of "Hurons."
The Huron logo was used for 62 years until EMU changed it after the Michigan Civil Rights Commission recommended in 1988 that schools drop the use of Native American names, logos and mascots to avoid promoting negative images.
At the time, there were about 100 Michigan schools using Native American mascots and scores more across the country.
When EMU dropped the Hurons in 1991, many were devastated — especially since some Native American leaders saw no reason for the change.
"Our stance has always been we didn't see it as anything but an honor to the Hurons and Wyandottes," said Billy Friend, chief of the Oklahoma-based Wyandotte Nation, the only federally recognized band that was once in Michigan and known as Hurons. "We never saw it as demeaning."
Jacki Miller, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, said it is the prerogative of Native Americans to support Indian mascots, but the commission made the recommendation for good reason, since they are often depicted negatively.
"It was considered inappropriate and insensitive to the Native American people to have mascots portrayed that way," Miller said.
The Eagle, Huron and Normalite logos have recently been used together on EMU T-shirts, sweatshirts and caps for alumni.
But the marching band's uniforms are the first time the mascots have been featured on a university-sponsored organization.
The Huron mascot is considered "historical memorabilia" and does not violate a 2005 NCAA ban on using hostile or abusive mascots that are of racial, ethnic or national origin at the NCAA championships, said EMU spokesman Walter Kraft.
The uniforms replace ones that had been used for 16 years. Band members raised about half of the $150,000 for the uniforms, with the president's discretionary fund kicking in the rest. Fundraising continues.
The use of the three mascots on the band's uniforms comes as EMU has become more competitive athletically and is eyeing a bowl game this year, which would be a first in 25 years.
It also comes as EMU continues to reach out to alumni who still refer to the teams as Hurons.
"It's no secret there are still those disenfranchised people from the logo change," said Daniel Mathis, interim executive director of EMU Alumni Relations. "It still comes up at pretty much anywhere we travel the country. … There are still people who say, 'I will never give a dollar until they change it back.'"
But Martin said the intention of using the three logos is much broader than financial support from alumni. It's about opening the university's arms to all alumni when they come to campus.
There were many years when Huron-clad alumni were booted off campus and asked to leave sporting events, said Maynard Harris, president of the Huron Restoration Alumni Chapter.
But at a basketball game earlier this year, students sold Hurons T-shirts and also had a Hurons cheering section.
It was nice to see an attitude change, said Harris, a vocal Huron alumnus.
"At least they are taking into consideration the whole history of Eastern Michigan University," Harris said. "I can live with that."
Huron Restoration Alumni Chapter News
Recent inductees into the EMU Sports Hall of Fame chose the Huron logo to be placed on their plaques. In fact, the majority of those already in the Hall of Fame are designated as Hurons. Be sure to visit the Hall of Fame wall in the Convocation Center during your next visit to the EMU campus. The Huron logo is prominently displayed as you enter the front door. Also visit the meeting room at the top of the stairs for more Huron memorabilia. GO HURONS!
The Huron Restoration Alumni Chapter still offers a $500 scholarship for both the fall and winter semesters to a deserving Native American undergraduate student in good academic standing. Scholarship forms are available at the Office of Financial Aid in Pierce Hall. For a fourth consecutive academic year, Marne Smiley was the recipient of the award for 2004-2005. At one time she was on the track team and plans on attending the Olympic Games in Athens this summer.
Future scholarship awards may be be offered to incoming freshman after attending EMU one semester as their credentials and accomplishments are reviewed by the Huron Restoration Alumni Board.
Our chapter also donates to special community programs such as S.O.S. Crisis Center and Community Services as well as special school programs. We are the real spirit of EMU!
Please mail all correspondence and Huron orders for merchandise to:
Maynard H. Harris, PresidentEMU Huron Restoration Alumni Chapter59 South Crestview DriveAdrian, MI 49221-9311
Copyright © 2014 by Bud Howard
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