The state government in New York ordered all schools to stop using team names and mascots based on Native American imagery or risk losing funding from the state.
The order came in the wake of a court ruling against the Cambridge Central School District in a lawsuit to keep its “Indians” team mascot, logo, and team name.
The New York State Education Department sent a letter Thursday to schools threatening to punish them if they kept using mascots, team names, and logos with Native American imagery.
“Thus, the court’s decision establishes that public school districts are prohibited from utilizing Native American mascots,” wrote Senior Deputy Commissioner James Baldwin in the letter. “Arguments that community members support the use of such imagery or that it is ‘respectful’ to Native Americans are no longer tenable.”
Cambridge school board member Dillon Honyoust, who also has Native American heritage, said that erasing the “Indians” name also ended the opportunity to educate students.
“When you’re talking about erasing all of the imagery and taking away potential learning opportunities, educational opportunities for our kids, when you remove all of that, you’re removing the history,” said Honyoust to WTEN-TV. “So the big thing that I would say is that it’s education. We need to educate, not eradicate.”
Among those who disagree is John Kane, a Cambridge alumni and an individual of Mohawk descent.
“The problem is that we’re a living, breathing, and existing people,” he said in 2021 to WTEN.
“So our imagery being dehumanized in this fashion, no matter what anybody wants to talk about as far as honor and respect, it isn’t, it doesn’t,” he added.
About 60 schools in New York currently use the forbidden names and must decide to end their use and comply or risk losing funding from the state.
There is one loophole: A school may avoid the order if they have received the express approval from a recognized Native American tribe for their mascot, team name, and logo.
Here’s more about the New York prohibition:
New York orders schools to replace Native American mascots