SALAMANCA, N.Y. (WIVB) – Salamanca city schools were given approval Wednesday to continue using their “Warriors” nickname and logo, one month after New York banned public schools from using Native American names and imagery.
“There is a provision where that is possible and it seems that Salamanca has gotten that approval but my understanding is that window is closing quickly,” Michael Cornell, president of the Erie-Niagara Superintendents Association, added.
The stamp of approval came directly from the Seneca Nation, which hopes that appeals for logo and mascot approval will be rare. President Rickey Armstrong Sr. said Salamanca is a unique case because nearly 40% of its students are Native and because the district has fostered a strong relationship with the Nation.
“While the regulations provide an avenue for agreements between Districts and Native Nations, it is our belief that any such agreements should be rare, limited, and used only in unique circumstances,” Armstrong Sr. said in a statement. “We believe that Salamanca represents the most unique of circumstances and, because of that, warranted further consideration.”
Salamanca is the only U.S. city built on land leased from a Native American reservation, according to the Associated Press. The district is believed to be the first in the state to receive approval to retain its Native nickname and imagery.
“This particular issue highlights the problem that these other districts were not in connection with these communities to begin with and they are having to reach out now,” Dr. Montgomery Hill, an Indigenous Studies Professor at the University at Buffalo and a citizen of the Tuscarora Nation, told News 4.
The school’s logo is a profile view of a Native American man with a feather in his hair and a braid trailing down. It was designed by a Seneca artist and is considered a historically accurate depiction of a Seneca Native American, according to Superintendent Dr. Mark Beehler.
“The Seneca Nation of Indians have been really closely connected with the creation of this mascot from the beginning. The artist of the logo is a Seneca artist,” Dr. Hill said. “The Seneca Nation actually with their longstanding connection with the community engaged in consistent and meaningful dialogue. They spoke to the community about it and we are not seeing similar things across other districts.”
When the state Board of Regents last month voted to prohibit public schools’ use of Indigenous names, it included an exception for districts that receive written approval from a federally recognized tribal nation in New York. Other local schools using Indigenous imagery told News 4 they are preparing to make changes, including the Tonawanda Warriors and West Seneca West Indians.
A spokesperson for the Seneca Nation said districts other than Salamanca have reached out about their mascots over the last several years and months, from both locally and across the state, but he didn’t have a list to share. He reiterated that Salamanca is “the most unique of circumstances.”
West Seneca released a follow-up statement to News 4 regarding its “Indians” mascot.
“In West Seneca, we are committed to continue to phase-out all of our older uniforms that still have the word Indian and/or the Indian logo,” the statement said. “The W logo, on the West Senior field and in the gym, has acted as West’s transitional mascot/symbol.”
The Salamanca City Central School District said in a statement that it “values our relationship with the Seneca Nation of Indians and is honored to receive the endorsement of our Warrior identity and the continued use of our logo.”
The district added that within the next week, its Native American Curriculum Team will release educational resources to teach the history and meaning of its logo and “what it means to be a Warrior in Salamanca.”
“It is our hope these resources will educate and contribute to the eradication of stereotypes and misunderstandings that lead to bias and racism,” the district said.
The complete statement from the Seneca Nation can be seen below.
“The regulations recently approved by the New York State Board of Regents and our history of co-existence with Salamanca gave us much to consider.
Respect for Native people and our history should always be the expectation, not the exception – in the classroom, on the athletic field, and in society. While the regulations provide an avenue for agreements between Districts and Native Nations, it is our belief that any such agreements should be rare, limited, and used only in unique circumstances. We believe that Salamanca represents the most unique of circumstances and, because of that, warranted further consideration.
Salamanca exists on Ohi:yo’ – our Allegany Territory. Today, nearly 40% of the District’s students are Native, along with many teachers. Over the last several years, the relationship between our Nation and the District has produced greater dialogue and interaction, and an overall more collaborative and consultative relationship, which, in turn, has created a more positive environment for all Salamanca students.
After lengthy internal discussion and feedback from Seneca community members, we have provided our support to the District’s request to continue using the Warriors nickname and logo. While the Nation reserves our ability to revoke this support at any time, in accordance with the Board of Regents regulations, it is our hope that the District will continue to cultivate a culture with which our students can identify, where they feel respected, and where they can excel as students and as individuals.”Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong Sr.
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Nick Veronica is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as the Digital Executive Producer in 2021. He previously worked at NBC Sports and The Buffalo News. You can follow Nick on Facebook and Twitter and find more of his work here.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter 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.