Canisteo-Greenwood considers new mascot after Seneca Nation request
Read the statement by the school district:
In July of 2020, I was directly contacted by the Seneca Nation regarding the use of our mascot. Dr. Stahlman and I had a few conversations around the use of the Redskins for our mascot but at the time, I was solely focused on getting our kids back in school after the abrupt closure of school in the spring due to the covid pandemic. I asked him to please give me some time to get the kids back in school and we would pick up our conversations after we dealt with covid. Well, 2+ years later, here we are.
During those past few years, we have seen some changes throughout the country and New York State around the use of Native American mascots. The Washington Redskins are now the Washington Commanders, and the Cleveland Indians are the Cleveland Guardians. A little bit closer to home, Odessa-Montour and Waterloo recently changed their names over the summer from Indians to Grizzlies and Tigers, respectively. There are currently two remaining schools in New York State with the mascot of Redskins. And in the country, it is just over 40 in total.
In New York State, Senator Biaggi from the 34th Senate District has proposed BillS1549E that would prohibit public schools from using a native name, logo, or mascot. The bill has been amended and recommitted to the Education Committee five times since its introduction on January 13th of 2021. Typically, in the Senate, if a Bill were not going to “make it through,” it would be introduced to the Education Committee once and stop there. It has been amended and recommitted five times to date which means it has a good chance of passing. If the Bill passes, it will be signed into law and become effective immediately. There is even some rumor that the issue may be legislated to end the “discussion” around this and just mandate it.
As I have stated before, if we feel that it is going to be mandated to change it, let us do it on our own terms as a community. That is why we decided to create the Mascot Committee and invite community members to join. The original thought was to have 15 members on the committee with 5 community members, 5 staff members and 5 students. After all who stated interest in the committee, we ended up with 18 members. There were 3 individuals that stated interest but because they had just participated in our Mission and Vision Committee, I asked that they “give up their spot” to another interested community member and they graciously accepted. Unfortunately, some members have had to back out after being selected due to scheduling conflicts. The committee has met 4 times to date and has created a timeline for their recommendation to the Board of Education. The conversations have been extremely professional and productive with all voices and opinions heard. Now they want to make sure that all your voices are heard.
Please take some time to read the supporting documents that are posted on the website. After you have spent some time with those documents, we ask that you please fill out the survey at the bottom of the Mascot Committee Resources webpage. Your feedback will assist the committee in preparing for the community meetings in November and allow them to focus on the most asked questions and concerns that our community members have.
November 15th – Greenwood School – 6:00pm
November 16th – Canisteo-Greenwood High School – 6:00pm
Meet the Committee Members:
Robin Robarge – Community Member and Alum
Don Lewis – Community Member and Alum
James Freeland – Community Member, Staff Member, and Alum
Riley Bloom – Student
Steve Morse – Community Member and Alum
Jon Amidon- Staff Member and Community Member
David Prete – Community Member
Nichole France – Community Member and Alum
Sarah Fuller – Community Member and Alum
Erin Freberg – Community Member and Alum
Domonic Dennis – Student
Isabell Dennis – Student
Bryan Lewis – Staff Member
Scott Burdick – Community Member and Alum
Jaiden Weitzel – Community Member and Alum
Kelly Houck – GST BOCES District Superintendent – Committee Moderator and Subcommittee Facilitator
Tom Crook – Canisteo-Greenwood Superintendent – Observer, Subcommittee Facilitator, Community Member, and Alum
Seneca Nation Position Statement on Schools and Sports Teams
The use of Native American names, references, and imagery for the logos and mascots of schools and their sports teams is blatantly offensive to the Seneca Nation and has no place in a multicultural society that values diversity. It is not an “honor”, as many schools and teams assert, to be inaccurately portrayed by caricatures and references that have no connection to our history or our living cultures. The Seneca Nation calls on all districts and educational institutions to immediately cease this practice.
In 2005 American Psychological Association (APA) adopted a formal resolution recommending this kind of imagery be retired due to the “growing body of social science literature that shows the harmful effects of racial stereotyping and inaccurate racial portrayals, including the particularly harmful effects of American Indian sports mascots on the social identity development and self-esteem of American Indian young people.”
The APA cites research (https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/indian-mascots) that this:
• Undermines the educational experiences of members of all communities-especially those who have had little or no contact with indigenous peoples.
• Establishes an unwelcome and often times hostile learning environment for American Indian students that affirms negative images/stereotypes that are promoted in mainstream society.
• Undermines the ability of American Indian Nations to portray accurate and respectful images of their culture, spirituality and traditions.
• Is a form of discrimination against American Indian Nations that can lead to negative relations between groups.
Contradicting claims by the defenders of these mascots that Native people do not find it offensive, the National Congress of American Indians has challenged these stereotypes and offensive portrayals for over 50 years (http://www.ncai.org/proudtobe). There are several Native-led organizations and initiatives that have been actively opposing the use of mascots and Native imagery by professional and school sports teams for many years.
If schools are truly interested in honoring the Seneca Nation, or any other Native nations, they will commit to eradicating all vestiges of this practice while also making authentic and substantive Native studies a part of their curriculum. The Seneca-Iroquois National Museum is a great resource for educators and has hosted teacher trainings for local school districts. Working directly with our museum would enhance efforts to provide students with a well-rounded education that accurately deals with Native peoples. With all the current attention being given to social justice matters nationally, including changes taking place for professional teams, it is well overdue that educational institutions do the right thing in regards to this issue.