Shawnee Mission Board of Ed to re-examine 98-year-old ‘Indian’ mascot

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — The movement to get rid of Native American mascots will finally be discussed by the Shawnee Mission Board of Education.

Hundreds of alum are now working with current students to get the school board to change the name of this mascot. But it won’t be easy – Shawnee Mission North has been the Indians for 98 years. 

Organizers of this movement to get rid of the Indian mascot said they hope to enter a new era of cultural awareness by unveiling a new mascot to be used for the next 100 years. Opponents of the mascot feel the Indian moniker is racist and offensive to the Native American culture. 

While current and former students all agree most are respectful toward their mascot, the school does typically have a white male dressed up as a Native American at school events. Research shows Native American mascots encourage stereotypes and cause lower self-esteem among the Native American people.

A Native American alum is leading the charge to keep the Indian mascot. He said it honors his culture, and he fears getting rid of it would erase history along with the tribe’s influence in this area.

Thirteen other schools in Kansas use the Indian mascot, three use Redskins, two use Redmen, two use Chieftans and two use Braves. Some argue the mascot recognizes the people who lived here before us, but the picture is of a Great Plains Native American, not Shawnee Native American. Opponents likened it to calling a school the Bulldogs but using a Chihuahua for a mascot.

In light of the recent Black Lives Matter campaign, a former student decided the time was right to change this mascot. The movement sparked a national conversation about respecting other cultures, making now the perfect time to try and change the mascot.

The student started a petition drive a few weeks ago. Now, the petition has 3,416 signatures, about 900 more than the petition to keep the name. Current and former students have reached out wanting to help make this change. 

This group wants the school district to start offering a course in Native American history. They intend to preserve the Indian mascot heritage in a glass case while moving on with a new mascot. 

They plan to appeal to the District later this year with hopes they can change the mascot in time for the school’s 100th anniversary, which is in two years. 

The first committee discussion happens Thursday, Dec. 3. The Board of Education will have the final vote. They will decide after this issue is debated in the weeks ahead.

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