ELMA, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Iroquois Central School District hosted a discussion for the community about the school district’s mascot and logo change that will take effect later this school year. This comes after the New York State Department of Education created new regulations to eliminate Indigenous mascots and logos from schools.

On Monday night, the district hosted a community meeting to educate the public about the Native American experience and why the change is important for the district.

“Iroquois has always said we want to honor and respect the Native Americans. Understanding their story and listening to what they have to say is very important in understanding and having empathy and compassion toward anyone in the world,” Superintendent Douglas Scofield told News 4.

Jacinta Garcia is the academic and cultural coordinator from Lake Shore School District and served as the guest speaker. Her presentation was titled “The Creation and Consequences of the Native American Boarding School and Adoption Era” and was followed by a question and answer with those in attendance.

“The idea is really to set people in that Native experience and learn and see from a perspective they had no possible way of knowing or hearing about in their school system growing up,” Garcia said.

The presentation discussed the relationship between the federal and state governments and the Indigenous Nations across the country, which is detailed on the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition’s website.

The district is moving forward with plans to change the mascot and is currently accepting submissions for new ideas. It hopes to vote on a new mascot by January. Then, additional design submissions will be submitted to create the imagery for the district.

“By March, we should have everything completely done and we can start getting contractors to resurface floors and put up the appropriate imagery,” Scofield said.

New York State Department of Education is requiring all changes to be made by June 2025.

There were about two dozen people at Monday’s presentation in the Iroquois Middle School auditorium. Among them was Megan Benzee, a current Iroquois High School senior, and her mother, Missy.

The two spoke about the discussions and debates in their house about if the mascot should change. Ultimately, they both agree the change is a positive one for the district.

“I always thought it was kind of weird that we had an Indigenous person as a mascot,” Megan said. “Being a minority in a group of small towns, it’s not very easy growing up. I feel like seeing this change is such a monumental and progressive thing.”

“I’m here to support her and to support the change because I am someone who graduated from Iroquois, again 1988, that felt it was okay to have that. I felt it was respectful and I learned from Megan it’s really not,” Missy said.

As the mascot process moves forward, Garcia hopes the Iroquois School community embraces the change.

“Trying to have the conversations. Trying to open up dialogue and have a better understanding and hopefully create a little bit more understanding between the communities so we can build a better Western New York,” Garcia added.

The district is taking submissions for the new mascot until the end of October. A committee will review the submissions and present the top 25 ideas in November. The community will narrow down the list to a top 5 in December and the final vote from December 18 to January 5 will determine the new mascot. A similar process for logo design will follow.

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Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native and Emmy-nominated reporter who joined the News 4 team in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.