(WSYR-TV) — The New York State Board of Regents on Tuesday unanimously approved new rules that will ban the use of Native American names and imagery by schools.
This includes team names and logos, as well as names of the schools, school buildings and districts themselves. This could affect at least eight school districts in the Western New York area.
Late last year, NYSED sent the ruling to all New York school districts, requiring those with a Native American mascot to find a replacement, unless they received proper approval from local tribes. The ruling read, in part:
“In 2001, former Commissioner of Education Richard P. Mills issued a memorandum ‘conclud[ing] that the use of Native American symbols or depictions as mascots can become a barrier to building a safe and nurturing school community and improving academic achievement for all students.’ Commissioner Mills recognized that, while a role for local discretion existed, ‘there is a state interest in providing a safe and supportive learning environment for every child.’ He asked boards of education ‘to end the use of Native American mascots as soon as practical.’”
The ruling also added that schools are learning environments, and choosing to use Native American mascots is a reflection of the “message their choices convey to students, parents and their communities.”
There are eight districts across the Western New York counties that used either a Native American-inspired team name, logo or both, according to the National Congress of American Indians.
Those districts are:
- Canaseraga (Indians)
- Cheektowaga (Warriors)
- Iroquois (Chiefs)
- Jamestown (Red Raiders)
- Letchworth (Indians)
- Salamanca (Warriors)
- City of Tonawanda (Warriors)
- West Seneca West (Indians)
St. Francis High School also uses a name on the list of Native American mascots (Red Raiders), however, it is unclear if the school will have to or decide to change the name, as it is a private high school and is not part of the state’s initiative. Neither St. Francis nor Jamestown use Native American imagery as part of their logo, which, at this time also makes unclear whether the name can stand due to this fact.
The Seneca Nation shortly after 2:30 p.m. Tuesday issued a statement regarding the vote.
“Respect for Native people and our history should always be the expectation, not the exception,” Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong, Sr. said. “We believe the State’s provision for agreements between school districts and Native Nations should be rare and limited, rather than an open invitation for districts to go ‘approval shopping’ among Native Nations. The Seneca Nation will carefully consider how that standard may potentially apply within our community.”