ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — The State Education Departments decision to remove Native American imagery in school mascots, logos and team names has come with some backlash. A school district in Mohawk Valley submitted a document to NYSED in an attempt to keep their mascot name as the “Braves” but that request was rejected. Our Capitol correspondent, Amal Tlaige spoke with someone from the Indigenous Mascot Advisory Council who explained how and who helps make those decisions.
The Board was created after NYSEDS mandate and have met twice so far. While they don’t have the final say in approving or rejecting school mascot imagery, NYSED does heavily take into consideration what they have to say. “People are more passionate about their native mascots, than anything else. You’ll never hear people say ‘Oh I was a bear and I’m always gonna be a bear for the rest of my life,’ but we hear that constantly with any of these native names or logos,” said John Kane, Native activist and council member.
Kane said there’s anywhere from ten to 12 people on the board. There’s no chair and each person plays an equal role. “The politics and divisiveness in, not just in New York, but in the country makes even this a political issue,” said Kane. Which is why he said Commissioner Betty Rosa wanted to keep Native American people a part of the decision making process. Kane explained sometimes, an issue the board runs into is when school districts propose dropping the Native American imagery but insist on keeping the name, “Or we’re gonna keep ‘Braves’ or we’re gonna keep ‘warriors’ and we’re gonna just change the logo… that’s something that’s very difficult for us as a council to fully reconcile because if you’ve been calling yourself those words with the needed imagery attached for 50, 60, 70 years, we think there’s got to be more of a clean cut to it.”
Kane said a lot of the push back comes from alumni or people who want to condemn “woke-ism” or cancel culture, but he insists that if schools continue to use this imagery, it’s wrong. Schools must have an action plan by the end of this school year.