Waubonsie Valley High School Embraces Its Potawatomi Culture

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A new era of Waubonsie Valley High Schools past is upon us. The school unveiled a new mural inside the Auditorium and Athletics entrance. The mural is dedicated to the Potawatomi tribe and Chief Waubonsie who settled on the land that the school now occupies.

A New Idea

Five-years ago a Waubonsie Valley student, Natalie Freitag researched the history of the school. She found that past murals and pictures have been seen as insulting to certain Native American tribes. So, she brought it the schools’ attention to create an imagery committee consisting of students and staff to research the tribe and get a more accurate representation.

“We think this is more of an authentic depiction of the first peoples that were on this land. On this Potawatomi land,” said Jason Stipp, Principal at Waubonsie Valley. “It’s more of a Western Apache approach towards the first peoples. This is more of a Woodland approach. The first peoples were on here and it’s a more historically accurate depiction of the lifestyle they had on this land before it was basically taken over and westernized and colonized.”

The mini-exhibit was created by Ryan Loft of Digicom Imaging, and it consists of a billboard-sized mural, six smaller paintings, and four information stands that share information about the Potawatomi tribe. All are meant to help students and staff learn about the school’s history.

“Ignorant To The History”

“When I started as a freshman here, I was very ignorant to the history of this school. I didn’t know we were on Potawatomi land. I didn’t know who Chief Waubonsie was. That information really came last year when I started to educate myself through the committee,” said Sindhu Tiwari, a senior at Waubonsie Valley. 

Possible Change

The mural is just one step in being more sensitive and appreciating history. Although the school plans on keeping the current name and mascot there has been talks about a possible change.

“That is something we are going to be addressing over the next year. The word warriors we think is symbolic to a lot of things in life. A warrior If you’re battling an illness. A warrior trying to get through a calculus class. Warrior if you’re struggling at home. So, we think that it is important to just some values of persevering and integrity. So, we will keep that, but we’re going to identify that to where it means more than just associated with a native image of violence or fighting or something like that,” said Stipp.

By learning about the past, it gives students a chance to really appreciate the school and everything that they learn inside of the building.   

“We pride ourselves on being a hub of education. And that really starts at home. It’s a bit ignorant to educate ourselves on other topics and not know the true history of our school and this land that we live on. So, I’m really proud that we’re taking steps to make that happen,” said Tiwari.

Naperville News 17’s Anthony Yench reports.

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