N.C. Mascot Education & Action Group
From a Norfolk, VA newspaper that covers northeastern North Carolina
N.C. school districts rethinking use of Indian mascots
By CATHERINE KOZAK, The Virginian-Pilot
© March 29, 2003
MANTEO -- With the use of Indian mascots coming under fire across the country, Dare
County school officials have asked principals to start a conversation with parents
and teachers about the use of American-Indian imagery in school sports.
The Manteo High School Redskins, Manteo Middle School Braves and Manteo Elementary
School Braves in Training are examples of some of the 43 public schools across the
state that use Indian mascots, said Priscilla Maynor, senior assistant to state
Superintendent Michael Ward.
The state Board of Education had asked North Carolina's 117 districts to review their
policies and procedures toward American-Indian mascots and report to the
superintendent's office by Friday.
Inspired by American Indians Wanchese and Manteo, who coexisted with Roanoke Island's
Lost Colony in 1587, Manteo High School adopted its Redskins mascot, an Indian
brave's head, sometime before World War II.
Earl Greene, an 80-year-old Manteo native, said he was on the high school's first
football team in 1939. When he started at Manteo High in 1936, he said Manteo had
been known as the Redskins for a number of years.
``I don't see how it can be offensive to anyone,'' said Moncie ``Punk'' Daniels, who
graduated in 1951. ``I feel strongly that it remain.''
There are few, if any, American Indians in Dare County schools, but the issue is more
than whether the name and symbols offend particular members of the community, said
Terry McGinnis, coordinator of administrative services in Dare County Schools.
``Certainly we want to show sensitivity to the issues,'' he said. ``We want to ensure
we are handling this in a positive way with community involvement with the school,
the administration, the teachers at the individual schools and the parents.''
McGinnis said the district had already taken steps to soften the imagery. At Manteo
Middle, for instance, the word ``Braves'' has been removed from school shirts. And
the district is considering the possibility of changing the middle and elementary
school logos, he said.
``Now Manteo High School is another thing,'' McGinnis said, ``because it's a high
school and the mascot is a symbol for the community at large.'' With 31 sports teams
that use different images for the Redskins, the cost of changing uniforms and other
school items is also a factor.
Although the state Board of Education is encouraging examination of American-Indian
mascots, the state leaves control of the choice of a mascot up to each school
McGinnis said that by encouraging discussion about American Indians and questions
about the appropriateness of Indian mascots, parents, teachers and students can all
be educated about the issue. He said the district will not make changes without
The issue came to the forefront in April 2001, when the U.S. Commission on Civil
Rights called for an end to the use of American-Indian images and team names by
non-native schools, saying the practice is disrespectful and offensive.
``The elimination of stereotypes will make room for education about real Indian
people, current Native American issues and the rich variety of American Indians in
our country,'' the commission's statement said.
The word Redskin is considered derogatory. The term comes from centuries ago when a
bounty was placed on Indian people. Trappers would bring in Indian scalps along with
the skins of animals -- bearskin, deerskin, redskin.Each had a price.
``For Indians, it is a reminder of their genocide,'' said Monroe Gilmour, coordinator
of the North Carolina Mascot Education &Action Group in Asheville.
Gilmour, who is not American Indian, said that the Buncombe County school district
was sued several years ago over the use of ``squaws,'' the Indian word for
prostitute, on its sports uniforms. The name was eventually removed.
``What is really happening in North Carolina is that we are just beginning to realize
that this practice that we thought was just fun and honoring is really not received
that way at all,'' he said.
Although many people believe that the Indian mascots are honoring the history and
tradition of American-Indians, members see them more as trivializing and misusing
their culture. They also object to the promotion of the stereotype of the violent
Indian -- the mascot out to get the other team.
People also may not realize how offensive it is to see feathers and sacred religious
icons used as props at football games. ``Can you imagine someone coming out at a game
dressed like the pope, waving crosses . . . throwing faux wafers into the crowds and
splashing them with holy water?'' Gilmour said. ``That would not be tolerated for a
second.'' Gilmour said there are 100,000 American Indians in the state, 18,000 of
whom attend public schools. Just as once-acceptable practices changed with public
awareness and increased sensitivity to black issues, Gilmour said, so must the
practice of using Indian mascots.
``Some people say, `Well, we don't have any Indians in our schools,' '' he said.
``Well, you still don't want to teach your children or your students stereotyping or
that it's OK to disrespect another culture.''
Reach Catherine Kozak at (252) 441-1711 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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