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Native American Student Association condemns North Texas schools with Native mascots, imagery

Native American Student Association condemns North Texas schools with Native mascots, imagery

Native American Student Association condemns North Texas schools with Native mascots, imagery
August 03
22:40 2020

Native American Student Association called for several North Texas school districts to discontinue their use of mascots that depict Native American symbols in a statement on their Facebook page from July 14.

The statement condemns the use of all Native American mascots, stating the depictions are racist. It calls upon school districts such as Keller ISD, South Grand Prairie ISD and Waxahachie ISD for using mascots such as “Comanches,” “Braves” and Keller High School’s “Indians.”

“According to the American Psychological Association, these mascots promote stereotypes that disparage the image of Native American peoples,” the NASA said in the statement. “Not only do these images send the wrong message to Native American students, but they have negative psychological effects on all students.”

Eighteen out of 19 Waxahachie ISD schools and their webpages use Native mascots, including imagery of totem poles, war bonnets, dream catchers, tipis and arrows with feathers.

Jenny Bridges, Director of Public Relations for Waxahachie ISD, sent a statement to the North Texas Daily from the district which said it has consulted Native Americans in the community before, who believe the district should not change its mascot.

“Waxahachie’s history is deeply rooted in the Native American culture, which is why many years ago, the school district’s mascot was chosen to honor that culture,” the statement said. “Several years ago, when questions arose about our Indian mascot, a group of Native Americans living in our community were consulted. That group believed the mascot should not be changed, and our community agreed. We have great respect for the roots upon which our community was built and pride for the fantastic students who represent Waxahachie each day.”

 WISD Board of Trustees member John Rogers said in a Facebook post he supports a statement the district made.

Bridges said the mascot and emblem are submitted for review every five years. The district approved the use of “Waxahachie Indians” in August 2018 until August 2023.

Emilia Gaston, former president and member of UNT NASA, and Lane Barrett, incoming president, said the organization honors the Black Lives Matter movement, which built momentum and aided in the decision for Washington’s NFL team to stop using the “Redskins” name and logo after decades of criticism.

“Every victory matters in our fight towards visibility, equality, and justice,” Gaston said. “Team and school mascot names being changed is huge. It’s a very public action and the start of a larger movement.”

Gaston and Barrett said UNT NASA has members who are alumni from districts where mascots are being challenged and have worked with parents and alumni to write statements to school boards with their lead.

“The process is typically exhausting, especially for those who have been involved in this fight for longer than our members. People have been pushing for these changes for decades, and they are typically held up by alumni groups, or other members of the district asserting their stronghold on the ‘pride’ they feel in their racist mascots,” the organization said.

During a meeting on June 22, the Keller ISD Board of Trustees allotted time for the public to share comments and concerns with the district. Meredith Plunkett, a Keller resident, used the time to urge Keller High School to follow Birdville ISD’s lead, and vote out the school’s mascot – the “Indians.”

“If Richland High School can commit and lay down the steps for removing the ‘Rebel’ as their mascot, we can certainly remove the ‘Indian’ mascot,” Plunkett said in her comment. “Marginalized groups of people are not here for our entertainment. It’s past time for us to listen to Native American voices who have asked us to please remove this offensive and painful mascot. A mascot is not the total embodiment of your school spirit; it will not disappear if you remove ‘Indian.’”

Anya Bosworth, who has lived in Keller all her life, said she agrees with the notion to remove the Native mascot from Keller High School.

“We are taught white history in schools. We are taught that Columbus ‘discovered’ America even though the real Americans were already here,” Bosworth said. “[Native Americans] do not feel respected by the people in power, which is why Keller ISD — with a majority white population — has no right to use a race of people as their mascot.”

The Daily reached out to Keller High School Principal Lisa Simmons, Board of Trustees member Brad Schofield and Executive Director of Communications Shellie Johnson, but did not receive a response to requests for comment.

Heaven Gonzales, a Keller ISD graduate, is also advocating for the district to abandon the Native mascot. She is collecting statements from Keller HS students, parents, and alumni in favor of removing the mascot, which she is going to submit directly to each member of the Board of Trustees.

“I felt encouraged after seeing how my rival high school, Richland, formerly the Rebels, just changed their mascot after years of seeming like it would never happen,” Gonzales said. “I thought why not push Keller to change. This might be the time they listen.”

Gonzales also published a document online, which outlines researched arguments against using Native mascots, as well as contact information for each board member and Keller High School principal and assistant principals.

The Daily reached out to Sam Buchmeyer, Director of Public Information for South Grand Prairie ISD, with a request for comment but did not receive a response.

UNT NASA said it hopes to highlight other hardships the Native community faces as well.

“With the pot stirred and eyes on us at such a large scale, we can guide the public consciousness towards other issues like missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirits and the Navajo Nation still not having clean drinking water and being drastically underserved in fighting COVID-19,” Gaston and Barrett said.

Courtesy Native American Student Association

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Samuel Gomez

Samuel Gomez

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