By Joe Morey News Editor
An image from an LCO Eagles girls’ basketball game held at Butternut High School caused some strong emotions at Lac Courte Oreilles this past week as it depicts the red handprints that have become symbolic of the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women’s movement across Indian Country.
In a statement from the Butternut School Athletic Department, the poster image was from a Dec. 9, 2022, homecoming basketball game for the high school, even though a community member who shared the pic stated she believed it was from a middle school basketball game that took place on Monday.
The game this past week couldn’t be confirmed on either school’s website athletics calendar.
The Athletic Department statement reads, “Butternut High School sincerely apologizes for any offense to the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribe. There was no offense intended. The colors chosen on the poster were in no way intended to be symbolic of MMIW. The poster shown was part of the homecoming festivities that take place each year during the basketball season. The homecoming game happened to be against the Lac Courte Oreilles Migiziwag. Classes compete in a poster contest and those posters are displayed in the gym at the game. We can use this as an opportunity to teach and deepen our understanding of the sensitivity of this issue.”
The image in question states “Rest in Defeat, You’re Next” with the red handprints all over the poster.
According to Micheal Demain, who posted the image on Facebook, who is and has been a cultural instructor at the LCO Ojibwe School and the Akiigikinoo'amaading Charter School, the red handprints are a clear symbol of the movement and it upset a lot of women in the LCO community to see the image.
Demain said it’s obvious the poster is meant to inspire school spirit by saying their team was going to murder the LCO team, which is understandable, but it went too far by using the actual symbol that represents the thousands of missing and murdered women in Indian Country.
“Although you can’t mistakenly put the handprints on a poster like this, I believe it may have been an innocent mistake on behalf of the Butternut school staff and that we just need to have better education on subjects like this,” Demain stated.
Troy Scherwinski, the Butternut coach and athletic director, said, “I do apologize for not realizing there may have been a hidden meaning that I could have taken action sooner.”
The Butternut School District also released a statement:
Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. This banner was not approved by district leaders, and like you, we are deeply troubled by it. While we work to learn how such a banner could be posted in the gymnasium, the district's superintendent and athletic director have reached out to their counterparts at the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe School to apologize for it.
To the students, parents and other members of the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe School community, we deeply regret this banner.
The Butternut School District is one where all are welcome and celebrated. We regret that we have failed Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe School in this regard.