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North High Redskins Mascot
(Wichita, Kansas)

by Joe Rodriguez, Wichita Eagle


Meeting scheduled on Redskins mascot issue.

North High committee public feedback on whether the school should change its mascot.

The committee formed to solicit feedback on the North High school mascot issue will hold its first-and perhaps only public meeting on Monday. North's Mascot/Identity Committee will report the results of surveys filled out by school, staff students and parents on whether they think the school should change its mascot, the Redskins. The meeting will run from 7 to 8:30 p.m. and will be held inside the auditorium at North, 1437 Rochester. After its report, the committee will listen to public comments.

People who want to speak should:

Sign in with the committee between 8:15 and 6:45 p.m.

Provide a written copy of comments.

Limit comments to less than three minutes.

Be willing to answer questions from committee members.

The committee - made up of two North students, two North staff members, two parents of students at North, and two members of the community served by North - is only gathering information on the issue.

The final decision will be made by North High Principal, Ralph Teran, probably in January, he said.

The issue has come up several times in past years at North, most recently in April when a Native American parent wrote a letter to a Wichita school board member asking that North's mascot be changed. The parent, Nakita Vance said that she and others considered "redskins" a racist term.

A few weeks later, her letter was followed by a letter from the school board's desegregation advisory committee, also asking that the mascot name be changed "in a quiet and responsible manner."

The matter was turned over to the North High site council, which at a June meeting established a process to address the issue.

At that meeting attended by more than 200 people, the site council announced that the Mascot/Identity Committee would be established to gather information. The committee scheduled to make a presentation to the site council at the council's January 1998 meeting. The site council will discuss and then accept, reject or modify the recommendations, which then go to Teran.

The committee has met twice, said committee spokeswoman Kathy Whepley, a North teacher.

Most of the feedback the committee has received has come from surveys she said.

In the survey, people are asked to state their position on the issue. to explain their position and to say what "redskin" means to them.

Surveys have already been filled out by North staff members and students. The surveys are being distributed to parents this week during parent teacher conferences.

So far, the completed surveys "run in favor of keeping the mascot," Whepley said.

On Monday, the committee will get more feedback.

Whepley said that people who want the mascot changed will be allowed to speak first in part because the committee expects a large turnout on Monday. In the event that not all people get the chance to speak and since most of the feedback has been in favor of keeping the mascot. Whepley said that committee members want to ensure they hear both sides of the issue. "We thought that would probably be the best process," she said.

Rodriguez can be reached at:

316-268-6644


Comments from Matthew Richter

Only site council and administrators were allowed to speak at the first meeting and this 'meeting" is the first opportunity we have had to heard. Everything you want to say in three minutes, which is aproximately one third to one half page. The survey and data gathering done by the committee is quite interesting because no one has asked to gather any data from the Urban Indian Coalition. The principal and Site Council have not responded to any of the Urban Indian Coalition's letters. Our chairman has had only one phone call returned by the principal during which he was told we may talk at the public input session and to watch the paper for announcement of that date. We have not gotten responses to our request to address the principal, the Site Council, or the committee to make recommendations to the Site Council. The clerk at the USD 259 school district office has told us the Board of Education will not put the Urban Indian Coalition on the agenda for discussion. This has been going on since last spring. It is most unpleasant to be treated as if we don't exist. Big surprise.


Historical Perspective

One problem we have been facing in South Central Kansas, specifically Wichita Public Schools, currently centers around getting heard by the School District regarding the stereotype mascot "REDSKINS" in use by Wichita North High School for the past 70 years. Mascots are an issue that has been discussed at some length on various lists prior to 1995 and a search of archives will show many enlightening postings on the subject. As a member of the Urban Indian Coalition our organization here in South Central Kansas has been working on getting this school to change its mascot for reasons that are obvious to most (certainly not all) Indian people.

While our organization is a bit divided on the *depth* of the issue we are addressing, it is my feeling that the offensive mascot is an indicator of the widespread teaching of stereotypes of Indian Culture and the exploitative dominant culture historical perspectives in the Wichita and Kansas Public Schools. Most of our members have much less confidence in the ability of the local Unified School District 259 to effectively engage the complexities of training staff and adjusting their curriculum to teach a more honest perspective on the past 500 years of contact on this continent (at least in our lifetimes) so we have opted for just pressing the issue of mascot change. That is to say, "Can you teach an old dog new tricks?" or "It's taken seven generations just to get this far."

The stage was been set by Wichita North High School last spring when they responded to their School District's appointed task force on discrimination recommending the mascot be changed. It has steadily gone downhill from there. The North high school principal placed the mascot issue before the school advisory Site Council and turned away any public request to be heard by persons that assembled at the open meeting. Following that meeting three of us on the Urban Indian Coalition wrote requesting an opportunity to have a seat on this Council regarding the issue as is required by the accreditation process (i.e.., to take community input) but received no answer to our letters.

This fall the principal announced he had appointed another committee to decide the issue taking it out of the more public and broader based Site Council's hands. Neglecting to return our calls or answer our letters through the balance of this year until earlier this month, Wichita North High School's Principal finally returned a call to the Urban Indian Coalition's President stating he had mis-dialed his office phone number until now. Asking for an opportunity to have our point of view heard about the school mascot our President was told there would be an opportunity for public input sometime in August or December and that date would be announced to the media - we could watch for that if we wanted to attend. Further, if we desired to speak at the meeting we would need to submit our "talk" in writing to him before the meeting.

Not pleased with the way we had been treated by the Wichita North REDSKINS principal (no wonder it isn't a nice word) at the school we took our request for a voice to the School Board. Referred to the clerk we were told the Unified District 259 School Board would not schedule this issue on any agenda and would not take any input at any public session on it as well. We have sent a letter to the head of the School Board with our stated objection to the REDSKINS mascot and our concerns about lack of due process on this issue. As of yet we have not received an answer to that letter.

So there you have a break down of the preliminary actions in what will be an interesting struggle. So much for traditional approaches to conflict resolution! How can we talk if no one will sit with us? I will say that we have been polite and respectful in all our correspondence and discussions (no matter how short) and all we have asked is to have a voice, we have yet to more than briefly state our opinion.

Returning to my basic concerns mentioned above, it is the teaching of Indian stereotypes and the dominant culture's standard of historical perspective that is my basic issue with the schools. The stereotype Indian mascot is a highly visible and disrespectful emblem of the fundamental blindness of the dominant culture's public education to the historical and contemporary interaction of indigenous and immigrant peoples on these American continents. I agree completely with those (chop! chop!) tomahawk wavin' REDSKINS (and a proud group they are) that the mascot issue alone is insignificant and hardly worth the time spent on it but when and where are public educators going to make the time and place to confront the real problems? Most likely not until we who care make our objections known.

Based on our experiences so far I wonder how or when the Urban Indian Coalition will be received if we ask to have a review of the School District's Native American related curriculum at review time. Why is it necessary to go to such lengths just to be able to speak and ask for some accountability on the issues? How many years would it take to just form the *committee* that would make the *recommendations* that would be heard by the Board that would form the committee to consider the timetable that would govern the curriculum review for first consideration by the Board to later approve after amendments? Then will follow administrative evaluation of the staffing and/or existing staff training in that curriculum which would require formal approval before ANY changes would be made in classroom presentations.

I will ask of any of you who may have some experiences or suggestions with the "mascot issue" to send mail to me. I have some good source materials from poetry to letters to the marvelous Michigan Civil Rights Commission Report on Logos & Mascots which includes a Minnesota State Board of Education declaration of intent to change its state education system Indian logos, and others collected from Nat-Edu on why stereotypes are NOT OK. This anthology of information I will gladly share. I am especially interested in experiences of any who have gone through this before. How did it go at Arvada High, Denver (Indians) and the Title IV Committee? I am wondering how the e-mail campaign worked for them and is that effective or possible? How has it been at Champaign-Urbana for Joe Gone and Chief Illiniwek? Another request is for quotes from source material which includes the use of the word "RED SKIN" used in a derogatory manner, especially anything on the Congressional Record, any century.




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