Kansas Board: Please Drop Native American Mascots

Report cites harm the branding can do to students' self-esteem
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 10, 2022 6:45 PM CST
Kansas Board: Please Drop Native American Mascots
Andale's Eli Rowland runs with the ball during a football game in Andale, Kan., in 2019.   (Hayden Barber/The Wichita Eagle via AP)

The Kansas State Board of Education on Thursday recommended that the state's public school districts eliminate Native American mascots and branding to reduce their harmful impacts on students. The board approved a motion making a "strong recommendation" that Kansas public K-12 nontribal schools retire Native American-themed mascots and branding as soon as possible but within three to five years at the latest, the AP reports. Supporters stressed that the final decision on mascots is left to local school boards and that it would not impact districts' accreditation. They said the vote fits with the board's policies on discouraging bullying and encouraging equity, inclusion, and justice for all students.

The intent of the motion, supporters said, was to prompt discussions about racist aspects of the mascots and their negative impact on Native American students. Board member Melanie Haas said the motion lays the groundwork for those talks. "There are districts that aren't having these conversations, or that are having a hard time with those discussions," Haas said. Michelle Dombrosky, the only board member to oppose the motion, said it wasn't a state board issue. She suggested supporters work to build relationships with local boards and school patrons to promote education about the mascots and branding, which could take several years. The vote came after a report from an advisory group that included representatives from the four federally recognized tribes in Kansas—the Kickapoo, Sac & Fox, Iowa, and Prairie Band Potawatomi.

The report said more than 10,000 American Indian/Alaska Native students attend public schools in Kansas. Studies have shown the racist connotations of Native American mascots harm the students' self-esteem and limit how they see their futures, according to the report. "These practices teach narrow-minded stereotypes that represent American Indians as exotic, warlike people who are stuck-in-the-past, making it difficult for people to understand how American Indians exist in contemporary ways," the report said. The Indian Leader, a newspaper at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, reported in 2020 that about 33 Kansas schools had mascots such as Indians, Chieftans, and Braves. That number has declined as some districts, including Atchison, Shawnee Mission, and Wichita— have dropped American Indian mascots.

(More Native Americans stories.)

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