Lane Tech Indian Controversy Really A Generational Battle
Second of two articles.
Potential removal of the iconic Native American statue—as the focal point of Lane Tech College Prep High School’s Memorial Garden—has developed into a generational donnybrook between war veterans and older alumni and students, faculty and a conservative school council.
In early August, the Lane Tech School Council unanimously agreed to start a process to remove the warrior statue from the Memorial Garden after Principal Brian Tennison directed the organization to address the “Indian” issue with a vote.
The restored bronze statue titled “Shooting the Stars,” depicts a Native American warrior in a feathered headdress gazing to the heavens. The warrior statue stands on a pedestal in the central, open-air, private garden at the Lane Tech, 2501 W. Addison St. in Chicago’s West Lakeview neighborhood.
Some students and alumni say the statue and other Indian symbols on the Lane Tech campus reinforce harmful racial stereotypes of Native Americans.
However, a plaque attached to the base of the war monument simply states: “In reverent tribute to those Laneites who gave the last full measure of devotion for justice, and the American way of life, this memorial is solemnly dedicated.”
Vietnam veteran John H. Schwan, retired chairman of the Lane Tech Century Foundation, which raised more than $2 million for restoration of the campus as part of the school’s Centennial Celebration, and older alumni leaders are staunchly against the statue’s removal.
The plan also would remove other Indian mascot images from the school, including a huge Native American curtain on the auditorium stage, the campus Totem Pole and several priceless Works Progress Administration (WPA) murals and paintings adorning the halls of the school. Lane’s WPA murals have been valued at $11 million.
A recent survey of 9,135 Lane Tech alumni, faculty, students, parents and community members found that 52.5% want the Indian name and symbol to be discontinued, while 47.5% staunchly believe they should be preserved.
Of the 9,135 people surveyed, 59.6% were older alumni, including many graduates from the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Since 1945, some 80,000 Lane Tech alumni have attended the school.
Many Lane military veterans say saving the “Shooting the Stars” statue is “a fundamentally correct cause.” Lane Tech’s historic military leaders include: John Charles Stetson, Secretary of the U.S. Air Force; Anthony Watson, Commander of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, and Richard Mies, a nuclear submarine commander. Comments from some of Lane’s old military guard follow:
Don Garbarino, 82, Class of 1955, and a U.S Army veteran—“How insulting that a number of Lane Tech students, faculty and alumni want the removal of a statue that was erected in 1947 specifically to honor Laneites who served and died in foreign wars. The Indian represents a brave warrior paying tribute to fellow heroes who served or fell in battle. How does that reinforce a racial stereotype?”
John H. Schwan, 77, Class of 1961, and a decorated Vietnam War veteran—“The Native American statue stands as a memorial to every Lane Tech man and woman who served in the U.S. Armed Forces since World War I through the Iraq War, the War in Afghanistan. Some 314 of Lane’s fallen Gold Star World War II heroes and more than 50 veterans of World War I, Korea and Vietnam are solemnly honored by name on plaques displayed in the garden.”
Dean Karouzos, 72, Class of 1965, and a Vietnam War Navy veteran—“The statue is a symbolic argument for the brave to fight to the highest levels. It honors all those from Lane who paid the ultimate sacrifice to keep America free. I see a young, brave warrior shooting not an arrow of battle, but rather symbolically raising his hand to the stars for peace towards all humankind.”
“The liberal Lane Tech School Council is destroying 100 years of tradition that honors Native Americans and their culture,” said a 1980s Lane Tech graduate and former football star, who asked not to be quoted by name. “Generations of alumni helped make Lane Tech the School of Champions, and continue to support it.”
Even owners of the mighty Chicago Blackhawks professional hockey team have refused to bend and will not change the name of one of the oldest National Hockey League teams.
If the historic “Shooting the Stars” statue and other Native American icons are banished from the Lane Tech campus, what should the school and alumni choose as its new mascot name?
One misguided alumni reportedly suggested the name “Myrtle the Turtle.” However, an informal Home Front poll of older alumni, military friends and readers generated the following names to replace the iconic Indian: Warriors, Cavaliers, Knights, Gunners, Riflemen, Archers, Dog Faces, Troopers, Commandos, Rangers, Raiders and Centurions.
Vietnam veteran Karouzos, the 1965 Lane graduate, said: “I have not heard any complaints as to the symbolic names of the Michigan State Spartans, or the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Would not the current-day Native Americans find a way to be proud if Lane were to keep everything the same, and the school merely change the Mascot name to ‘The Americans’? After all, Indians are the first true Americans.”
One other name comes to mind. Why not simply go with “The Champions,” after all isn’t Lane Tech known as the School of Champions, for the hundreds of sports victories and championship awards that adorn its halls?
One of Lane’s most famous sports heroes is Phil Cavarretta, who played for the Chicago Cubs from 1934 through 1953. Cavarretta was a starting left-handed pitcher at Lane Tech, leading the team to city championships in 1932 and 1933. Cavarretta homered in his first at bat for the Cubs during a tryout. The first-baseman/outfielder was named National League MVP in 1945 after batting .355 and driving in 97 runs to lead the Cubs to their third NL pennant in 11 seasons.
Other Lane Tech baseball greats include Chicago Cubs catcher John Felske (Class of 1960), who managed the Philadelphia Phillies from 1984 to 1987, and Buzz Capra (Class of 1965), who pitched for the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves from 1971 through 1977. Lane athletes have gone on to compete in the National Football League and the Olympics.
The mascot or symbol? A simple Gold Star representing the military war heroes of Lane Tech. Imagine the star symbol—similar to the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys’—emblazoned in gold on Lane’s sports uniforms, sweaters and T-shirts.
For more housing news, visit www.dondebat.biz. Don DeBat is co-author of “Escaping Condo Jail,” the ultimate survival guide for condominium living. Visit www.escapingcondojail.com. DeBat is a 1961 Lane Tech graduate.