Principal Wants To "Retire" Indians

At Wednesday nights Manhattan Board of Education meeting, Teresa Northern Miller, MHS Principal gave this report and recommendation on changing the Indian mascot:

Background Information:

The Indian mascot is a 61 year tradition at Manhattan High School. MHS students were first known as Junior Wildcats. In 1940, the mascot was changed to the Indian to honor Frank Prentup, a successful Native American teacher and football coach. The mascot was chosen to recognize him and the contributions of Native Americans. The official portrait used today was drawn by MHS Teacher, Brent Yancey, also a Native American.

Over the last 10 years there have been challenges to the Indian mascot, including the last school year (2000-01). In the spring of 2001, Native American groups petitioned the local school board to consider changing the MHS mascot. The Board has requested that MHS administrative staff research the request and bring forward a recommendation.

Following is a historical summary of local and national challenges:

The Michigan Civil rights Commission in 1988 recommended that "any use of Indian names, logos, and mascots should be discontinued because racial stereotyping of Native Americans is prevalent and destructive."

In the fall of 1990, the Northview Elementary School mascot was changed from Chiefs to Northstar following a two-year exchange program with the Kinlichee Indians.

November 8, 1991...Mentor editorial regarding MHS mascot in light of Atlanta Braves and World Series controversy. Native American groups protested the use of a people as a mascot. Education Week, responding to the same controversy, in an article on December 4, 1991, reviewed the issues and referred to historical protests since the early 1970's when Dartmouth College and Stanford University dropped their Indian nicknames. The article quotes Cornel Pewewardy, Native American activist: "Those who don't understand how ....mascots are demeaning are not in touch with how they effect native people."

In 1998, the Kansas Association for Native American Education made a recommendation to the Kansas State Board of Education and to the Kansas State High School Activities Association, which called for the elimination of the use of American Indian mascots and logos in all public and private schools in the state of Kansas. That request was repeated again this summer to the state Board of Education and a response is expected in October.

April 2001...The U.S. Commission on civil rights called for an end to the use of Native American images and team names by non-Native schools:

"The Commission believes that the use of Native American images and nicknames in schools is insensitive and should be avoided. In addition, some Native American and civil rights advocates maintain that these mascots may violate anti-discrimination laws...These Indian-based symbols and team names...encourage biases and prejudices that have a negative effect on contemporary Indian people."

Over the years, as protests have been brought to MHS, support (students, staff, parents and community) has been strong for continued use of the Indian mascot because it was intended to be a strong, positive multi-cultural statement and was meant to be a source of pride and to recognize the strengths of the Native American culture. The Mascot was chosen to honor Native Americans, and specifically, to honor a former MHS educator.

Current Considerations:

•Hays High School has decided at this point to retain their mascot.

•Little River redskins, USD 444, referred to the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights' report which "found no quantifiable evidence to support the theory advance...that the use of the 'redskins' term reaches and/or fosters racial prejudice" and will keep their mascot.

•Hiawatha school board removed the mascot last year, but newly elected board members have campaigned (and been elected) to bring the mascot back.

•MHS Site Council surveys are attached --results are mixed and no specific recommendation was made.

•MHS Student Council surveys were conducted with parents and students:

1476 votes were cast. 80.76% voted to keep the mascot; 10.7% supported a change and 8.54% were unsure.

187 parent surveys were returned. 80% voted to keep the mascot; 13% voted to change the mascot; 4.2% were unsure. There were also some complaints of bias in the question.


I understand that there is strong community, student, parent and staff support to keep the mascot, but I cannot in good conscience recommend continuing the use of a people as a mascot. Therefore, I respectfully request the Board of Education to retire the mascot. I have reviewed the district and building missions and believe that as an educational institution we cannot we cannot foster harmful stereotypes which offend minority cultures. I do not believe that this is an issue about being politically correct. I believe it is an issue of modeling our beliefs - to educate each student to be a contributing citizen in a changing, diverse society. Native Americans have spoken, as well as other minority groups, and stated that they take offense at the use of this mascot. Demographers are predicting that our nation will soon have a minority majority; we need to prepare our students for that diversity by increasing their sensitivity to minority issues. Even though our intentions are/were very honorable, we are vulnerable to misuse of the mascot and stereotypes are fostered as a result. (Local radio campaigns use "Indians on the warpath" as a slogan; student at games try the "tomahawk chop." sports shirts are created with negative Indian images.)

We do need to honor the strong tradition of the past 61 years. The Indian mascot was chosen to honor and respect the Native American culture. I believe that we can retire the mascot with ceremony and respect. We could implement the suggestions of Native American groups and preserve the honor by naming a building or facility after Frank Prentup.

Finally, I submit to you the words of Tom Giago, Native American..."Remember the American Indian is a proud race. We are not Mascots. We are human beings with dreams, with goals, and ambitions. Being used as sporting mascots is not one of these dreams."