Students want bearcats mascot

Bison, Bearcats, Phoenix, Storm on final list for Sleepy Eye

SLEEPY EYE — After extended discussion Wednesday, the Sleepy Eye Public School board unanimously approved a resolution for superintendent John Cselovszki to email four school mascot name changes to a local Native American tribe and Sen. Mary K. Kunesh, DFL-New Brighton for approval.

Action came on a motion by board member Adam Barka, seconded by Casey Coulson.

Assistant Minnesota Senate Minority Leader Kunesh authored a legislative bill that became law outlawing Native American mascot names at schools next fall.

The school district’s final four list of new mascot names, whittled down from dozens of names, are bison, bearcats, phoenix and storm.

Cselovszki told the the board that the cost to replace the mascot with a new name was estimated at $400,000. Some of the school athletic uniforms with Indians on the them would have to be replaced. Other uniforms read Sleepy Eye on the front and could be kept.

Last fall, a legislature bill authored by Kunesh became law prohibiting all schools with Native American images as mascots to change them before Sept. 1, 2025.

Representatives met with the Lower Sioux Indian Community Tribal Council and requested an exemption from the law and continue using Chief Sleepy Eye as the school mascot.

After both sides expressed their position, the Lower Sioux Council said it would not support an exemption to keep the mascot.

A Sleepy Eye committee of 17 individuals was created to search for a new school image. The committee included school staff, students and community members.

Committee member and English teacher Caitlyn Pietig said 97% of the school students favored the Bearcats mascot. She said staff were equally divided on the final four mascot names.

Pietig said 55 mascot names were submitted for committee consideration. Submissions included bison, buffalo, lakers, prairie wolves, wildcats, wolverines, sturgeon, owls, orioles, bearcats, lions, ravens, sunsets, dragons, legends and thunder cats to name a few.

“I think we should reach out of the local tribe so we don’t have to do this again. I think we’re forced to error on the side of caution,” said board member Adam Barka.

Cselovszki said a lot of work went into the creation of new mascot names. He said the committee ranked the mascot names from one to four to determine the final four names.

“The bearcats name was far and away the most popular mascot name,” said board member Joleen Dittbenner.

Bearcats, also known as binturongs, are described as having a face like a cat, a body like a small bear, and a tail like a monkey, according to Wired Science. They have small, rounded ears, grow two to three feet long, and stiff, white whiskers that can grow up to 8 inches long.

Described as adorable mammals that live in the tropical rain forests of Southeast Asia, they are furry, smell like buttered popcorn to humans, are slow and clumsy on the ground and much more agile in trees, where they often sleep.

Binturongs are kept as pets in parts of Malaysia. Some are told into the meat and fur trades, which is discouraged since their population is on the decline, according to factanimal.com.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper?

Starting at $4.38/week.

Subscribe Today