Schools like Indian River barred from using Native American names, mascots

Published: Apr. 19, 2023 at 5:14 PM EDT
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TOWN OF PHILADELPHIA, New York (WWNY) - Indian River Central School District has been showing its “Warrior Pride” since the late 1950s, but it looks like that will soon come to an end.

It comes after the New Your State Board of Regents voted to ban Native American names, mascots and logos in public schools.

“While understandable from just the respect of indigenous cultures’ perspective, we are concerned that there continues to be a lack of complete clarity into the full scope of what this will mean for schools such as Indian River Central School District,” said Troy Decker, district superintendent.

Decker says all signs lead to the district looking at a complete rebranding. Over the years, it’s transformed its logo.

“We will work again with our students, with our community, and we will demonstrate strength and pride in some new fashion,” he said.

The changes will be an added cost to school districts. At Indian River, its Warrior name and logo on its gymnasium floor and turf field will have to be replaced.

“With anticipation that something may happen, we have started that planning process from a fiscal standpoint, and we do have several years of full implementation before the final deadline,” said Decker.

Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Chief Ronald LaFrance Jr. applauds the decision but wishes it had come sooner.

“We’re not cartoons. You know what I mean? We are living, breathing people with a rich culture that predates the United States by thousands of years,” said LaFrance.

Lyme Central School District changed its mascot from “Indians” to “Lakers” last year.

Massena has also changed its mascot from a Native American chief to a Spartan.

Districts have until June of 2025 to fully comply or risk losing state funding.

Below is a statement from Abram Benedict, the Grand Chief for the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne:

“The cultural appropriation of Indigenous peoples, is unfortunately, nothing new. In recent years, we have begun to see progress.

The New York Board of Regents has taken a step (albeit one that should have happened a long time ago) in the right direction to remove Native American images and mascots from their schools. This is a good start, but we have a long way to go.

It is not an honor to Indigenous people when you appropriate our culture or use a cartoonish logo that depicts Native Americans. It is offensive, inappropriate, and dehumanizing. I encourage individuals, particularly ones who think it is okay to use a Native American mascot, to become educated on the negative effects and stereotypes that these types of logos perpetuate. Familiarizing yourself with the horrific impacts of residential schools and the attempted cultural genocide of Indigenous peoples may provide an understanding as to why this type of derogatory imagery is so harmful. Across the country, there is always room for more improvement.”