Schools in New York state must stop using Native American references in mascots, team names and logos by the end of the current school year or face penalties including a loss of state aid, the state Department of Education said.
‘Public school districts are prohibited from utilizing Native American mascots. Arguments that community members support the use of such imagery or that it is ‘respectful’ to Native Americans are no longer tenable,’ the department said in the memo, issued on Thursday.
School districts who refuse to choose less offensive athletic avatars could face ‘the removal of school officers and the withholding of State Aid,’ the letter explains.
‘Students learn as much through observation of their surroundings as they do from direct instruction,’ the memo written by James N. Baldwin, the Senior Deputy Commissioner, added.
High schools in New York State must no longer use Native American mascots by the end of the school year, such as the one pictured above. They face the risk of losing state funding in 2023
In June 2022 a ruling was made against the Cambridge Central School District in upstate New York which had hoped to hold onto its ‘Indians’ mascot
‘Students learn as much through observation of their surroundings as they do from direct instruction,’ the memo written by James N. Baldwin, pictured the Senior Deputy Commissioner at the New York State Education Department, wrote
‘Boards of education that continue to utilize Native American mascots must reflect upon the message their choices convey to students, parents, and their communities.’
The memo pointed to a state court’s June ruling in favor of the department over the Cambridge Central School District north of Albany, New York, which decided to stop using a Native American reference in its team name last year only to reverse itself weeks later.
The state education department, which had issued a directive in 2001 for schools to stop using Native American imagery as soon as was practical, ordered the district to abide by its initial decision.
New York City began stripping controversial names such ‘Indians’ and ‘Chiefs’ as soon as the original directive was issued.
This latest memo said districts that don’t have approval from a recognized tribe to continue using the imagery ‘must immediately come into compliance.’
Cambridge Central filed a lawsuit over the order, which a court dismissed. The school district has said it intends to appeal.
Native American activists have been vocal about the issue at all levels of sports from schools to professional leagues for years, and have seen some teams makes changes while others have proved resistant
Native American activists have been vocal about the issue at all levels of sports from schools to professional leagues for years, and have seen some teams makes changes while others have proved resistant.
In a 2013 report, the Tribal Nations of New York voiced their opposition to stereotypical portrayals being used as public school sports mascots.
‘Widely consumed images of Native American stereotypes in commercial and educational environments slander, defame, and vilify Native peoples, Native cultures, and tribal nations, and continue a legacy of racist and prejudiced attitudes,’ reads a 2013 National Congress of American Indians report.
‘In particular, the ‘savage’ and ‘clownish’ caricatures used by sports teams with ‘Indian’ mascots contribute to the ‘savage’ image of Native peoples and the myth that Native peoples are an ethnic group ‘frozen in history,’ the report explains.
Districts that don’t have approval from a recognized tribe to continue using the imagery ‘must immediately come into compliance.’
The NCAI considers the mascots to be harmful stereotypes and disrespect native people.
It maintains a database of K-12 schools that it says have Native American-themed mascots, puts the number at just over 1,900 schools across the country in 970 school districts, including more than 100 schools in New York.
A report by the National Congress of American Indians notes how schools across the state have given them up in recent years.
The state education department said it was looking into the issue, and believed there were about 133 schools in 50 to 60 school districts across New York still using native-themed mascots.
Indigenous names have also been an issue in other areas of daily life including sport with baseball’s Cleveland Guardians switching from the Cleveland Indians and the NFL’s Washington Commanders formerly the Washington Redskins.
Indigenous names have also been an issue in other areas of daily life including sport with baseball’s Cleveland Guardians switching from the Cleveland Indians
In 2020, the NFL’s Washington Commanders changed their name from the Washington Redskins