NY schools told to stop using Native American mascots

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18 Nov 2022, 10:48 pm


Schools in New York state must stop using Native American references in mascots, team names and logos by the end of the current school year or face penalties including a loss of state aid, the state Department of Education said.

“Arguments that community members support the use of such imagery or that it is ‘respectful' to Native Americans are no longer tenable," the department said in the memo, issued Thursday.

“Students learn as much through observation of their surroundings as they do from direct instruction," the memo added. "Boards of education that continue to utilize Native American mascots must reflect upon the message their choices convey to students, parents, and their communities."

The memo pointed to a state court's June ruling in favor of the department over the Cambridge Central School District north of Albany, New York, which decided to stop using a Native American reference in its team name last year only to reverse itself weeks later.

The state education department, which had issued a directive in 2001 for schools to stop using Native American imagery as soon as was practical, ordered the district to abide by its initial decision. The memo said districts that don’t have approval from a recognized tribe to continue using the imagery “must immediately come into compliance.”

Cambridge Central filed a lawsuit over the order, which a court dismissed. The school district has said it intends to appeal.

Native American activists have been vocal about the issue at all levels of sports from schools to professional leagues for years, and have seen some teams makes changes while others have proved resistant.

The National Congress of American Indians considers the mascots to be harmful stereotypes. It maintains a database of K-12 schools that it says have Native American-themed mascots, puts the number at just over 1,900 schools across the country in 970 school districts, including more than 100 schools in New York.

The state education department said it was looking into the issue, and believed there were about 50 to 60 school districts across New York still using these kind of mascots.

I wonder if the typical Native American is offended by these mascots like their leaders and advocates are.

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Mona Pereth

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21 Nov 2022, 2:35 pm

ASPartOfMe wrote:
I wonder if the typical Native American is offended by these mascots like their leaders and advocates are.

According to what I've read, this varies from one tribe to another, and from one mascot to another.

For example, the Seminole tribe, in Florida, is officially okay with the "Unconquered Seminoles" as a sports team. Indeed, the team name is used as a justification for the Seminole tribe to have official booths at games, to educate any interested fans about the tribe and its history.

On the other hand, other mascots really are seriously and unambiguously offensive, and are probably seen that way by nearly all Indigenous Americans.

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21 Nov 2022, 2:41 pm

If they're seen as being offensive by Native Americans, I would do away with the mascots.

If not, I wouldn't do away with them.

In truth---it's a mixed bag, I believe. They are a tribute to the strength of Native American peoples---but they are caricatures of Native American peoples, too.

I do believe sports teams adopted Native American motifs because they symbolize strength and endurance. Sports teams want to depict strength and endurance when they are presenting themselves. But, again, they are also caricatures.


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21 Nov 2022, 6:53 pm

My suggestion:

You can have teams named after ancient warriors who are associated with modern ethnic groups.

You can call your team "Vikings", but not "Norweijians", or "Nordics".

You can call your team "Spartans", but not "Greeks".

"Gladiators", or "Centurions", but probably NOT "Romans", and certainly not "Italians".

So...you could have "Braves", or "Warriors", but not "Indians", or "Redskins", or "Apaches".


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21 Nov 2022, 6:58 pm

I agree it's wrong to exploit indigenous people if they don't wish to be.

However that said I live in GA and have seen news articles a while back that referred to our own baseball team, the Atlanta 'Braves', as racist.

Haters gonna hate I guess. :shrug: