Minnesota State University, Mankato has gone through a handful of name changes throughout its history — beginning as Mankato Normal School, then Mankato State Teacher’s College, then Mankato State College, Mankato State University and finally Minnesota State University.
More notable than the name changes however, are the changes the school’s mascot has gone through. While the school has only had four different mascots, their transitions are important to know and critical in understanding both the University’s and the town’s history.
MNSU’s nickname was initially the “Purple and Gold” prior to 1927.
“According to the school magazine the school colors of gold and purple were selected in November 1892,” said librarian Daardi Sizemore.
For approximately 35 years, the colors doubled as the nickname as well.
There was a short period of time, 1927-1930, when MNSU students (MSTC at the time) were known as the “Peds,” which stood for pedagogue, another word for schoolteacher. This was fitting as MNSU’s curriculum was primarily focused on preparing teachers.
In 1930, many people began pushing for a concrete and distinctive name for MNSU sports teams specifically, including the school newspaper and other schools in the region. In 1934, Bemidji State Teacher’s College (now Bemidji State University) depicted the Mankato sport’s teams as Native Americans.
The school decided to run with it, with the school newspaper stating that “the idea is a good one, and it is as appropriate as any name because of our Indian country and surroundings.” MNSU officially adopted the name “Indians” at its 1935 homecoming.
The image adopted was a squat, stereotypically cartoonish Native American man swinging a tomahawk.
The name and image ran uncontested and beloved for 36 years. Students on homecoming floats would wear traditional headdresses and sit among teepees. Homecoming princesses were crowned with headdresses, and the band had a member who wore Native American-esque regalia.
It wasn’t until October 1971 when the Mankato State College Native American Association called for a change in mascot. This sparked a nearly 6-year debate and search for a new mascot. Many people were all for the change, including the school newspaper, multiple alumni and members of the Mankato community. Many, however, were staunchly against the change.
The person most notably against the change was athletic director Bob Otto (namesake of the Otto Rec Center). He gave multiple statements to the school paper about how the mascot was a symbol of courage and spirit for the sports teams, and he was present at many Student Senate debates to comment.
A statement where he called the Indian mascot a “feisty little individual,” was used in many letters to the editor as a reason for change, as it promoted racial stereotypes. University Dean R.B. Moore was against the change as well, going so far as to submit a poem as a letter to the editor, which was meant to display the connections that the sports teams held to the mascot.
Barry Blackhawk, Clair St. Arnaud, and Carol Littlewolf stood as the main representatives for changing the mascot. Blackhawk and St. Arnaud were both former students at the school, and Littlewolf was serving as the spokesperson for the Native American Club. The trio called the mascot “terrible, unjust, and dehumanizing,” and said, “If Mankato State is going to be progressive, it must relinquish stereotypes and change the emblem.”
1973 marked the official suspension of the Indian, and in 1976 the search was opened by President Hopper for a new mascot. The search was eventually narrowed down to the “Fighting Muskies,” “Mavericks” and “Lightning.” The new name, Mavericks, was officially announced Jan. 19, 1977.
“The idea of the Mavericks was supported on campus because it held connotations of being independent,” Sizemore said.
Junior Trelawny O’Connor agreed, stating, “I’m happy to be a part of a school that is open to change and being corrected.”
The official Maverick image went through a couple of iterations before settling on the one we know today, but we have remained the MNSU Mavericks since 1977.
All information was retrieved from the MNSU archives, and the compilations of librarian Daardi Sizemore.