(WIVB) — Native nations are sharing their thoughts on the debate over using Native American mascots in New York State public schools.

Following a court decision in June, the New York State Education Department sent out a memo last month, telling schools to change their mascots, names and logos by the end of the 2022-23 school year.

News 4 received a statement from Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong, Sr. on the issue:

The decision handed down by the state Education Department is a positive step whose time has long since come. Names and imagery that mock, degrade and devalue Native heritage, culture and people have no place in our society. The historic decimation of Native people should not be celebrated in any fashion or used as a community rallying cry, especially in the realm of education. While individuals in different communities may not associate their team names with the horrors that Native people have faced throughout history, the fact remains that many team names and images further longstanding anti-Native biases.

The state’s decision appropriately suggests consultation between school communities and Native Nations. The Seneca Nation has long believed that dialogue, rooted in respect and understanding, can yield positive results. Respecting Native people, our culture, and our history is not a one-community issue, but a conversation that needs to happen in all communities and districts where Native-themed nicknames and imagery are still in use. This includes the Salamanca City Central School District, located on our Allegany Territory, which has a very unique relationship with the Seneca Nation. We will have further discussions with the district’s leaders, just as we have had conversations with multiple school districts in recent years.

Our Nation remains willing to participate in further discussions so that school districts and their communities can come together to support team names and imagery that reflects and respects the character and value of all residents and students.

Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong, Sr.

If schools do not comply by the end of the 2022-23 school year, they will be in violation of the Dignity Act — risking the removal of school officers, including the superintendent, or the withholding of state aid. The mascots, names and logos will officially be replaced in June 2024.

Jordan Norkus is an award-winning anchor who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of her work here or follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.