PBPN leaders express concern over Watson's remarks

Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation leaders voiced their concerns with Kansas Education Commissioner Dr. Randy Watson’s negative comments regarding Native Americans at a recent Kansas State Board of Education meeting in Topeka.

Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Tribal Chairman Joseph “Zeke” Rupnick, via Zoom, and PBP Tribal Council member Raphael “Raph” Wahwassuck attended a portion of the state board meeting last Wednesday and discussed ways for the state board to move forward after the incident.

Dr. Watson originally resigned from his position as commissioner after he made comments in a virtual learning conference recalling a story from his childhood that included a comment to his out-of-state cousins about how they should be more worried about “Indians raiding the town” than a tornado. Gov. Laura Kelly called for Dr. Watson to resign. 

Watson’s resignation was rejected by the state board. Instead, Watson was placed on a 30-day unpaid suspension for his comments.

Rupnick told members of the state board during the meeting that he opposes the decision made by the board to reject Dr. Watson’s resignation.  

“I found what was said to be dangerous and inflammatory,” Rupnick said. “The decision that the board made, in my view, has done nothing more than to whitewash the issue. This has sent a clear message to everyone that comments like these are completely acceptable and there are no repercussions for anyone making these types of statements.” 

Because of Dr. Watson’s comments, Rupnick said he now questions the credibility of Dr. Watson and the board.  

For more on this and other stories, please log in to your holtonrecorder.net account and select the March 16, 2022 edition under “E-Editions.”

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