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
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
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
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,"
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:
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.
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
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