Public schools and their sports teams in New York State have been banned from using Native American-related mascots and logos by the New York State Department of Education. The Board of Regents made the ruling on Tuesday, April 18th.
“It’s the right thing to do. Our desire is to elevate people, not diminish them. We want to elevate all people,” said Kathleen Cashin, a member of the Board of Regents.
“The Department does not anticipate that any team names, logos, or mascots that contain vestiges of prohibited team names, logos, or mascots will be considered acceptable,” NYS Department of Education spokesperson JP O’Hare wrote in an email.
The ban will affect close to 60 school districts and about 133 schools. The schools will be required to remove the Native American imagery and mascots by the 2024-2025 school year. This includes removing names such as Chiefs, Braves, or Warriors.
Schools that do not adapt to the new ban face the possibility of losing state aid.
The ban is supported by the Shinnecock Indian Nation and Oneida Indian Nation.
The call for New York Schools to drop the Native American imagery is not a recent occurrence. New York State’s former education commissioner Richard Mills requested that schools stop using the imagery back in 2001. His reasoning was that the mascots and logos could be a “barrier to building a safe and nurturing school community.” A number of schools have made the change over the past few years, however, some have cited various reasons for not following the requested changes. Parents and students from some schools have claimed the mascots and logos are a way of paying homage to the Native Americans.
Salamanca City Central School District has a logo depicting a Native American man. The logo was designed by a local indigenous artist and the school was hoping it would receive permission from the Seneca Nation. Salamanca School reportedly uses the term “Warrior” and offers Native American services.
Mark Beehler, superintendent of the Salamanca City Central School District, was hoping his school would be allowed to continue using the imagery and name.
“I think that if that’s what we decide that we need to have the opportunity to be heard…we support that decision of NYSED to do that but at the same time, each one of these circumstances need to be reviewed,” Beehler said.
The Seneca Nation released a statement addressing the situation. “Respect for Native people and our history should always be the expectation, not the exception. We believe the State’s provision for agreements between school districts and Native Nations should be rare and limited, rather than an open invitation for districts to go ‘approval shopping’ among Native Nations. The Seneca Nation will carefully consider how that standard may potentially apply within our community,” the statement said.
The decision left Upstate Representative Elise Stefanik unhappy, claiming it was another attempt by the left to push a supposed “wokeness” agenda.
“Upstate New York and the North Country take pride in our history and forcing them to replace these historical mascots is prioritizing the Far Left mob at the expense of our students’ education,” Stefanik said.
“Schools should be focused on education, and, while our local teachers and administrators are working tirelessly to educate our students after pandemic lockdowns deprived them of educational and developmental opportunities, the Hochul Administration’s priorities are entirely misplaced.”