October 19th 2020
Cover photography by Allie Wallace
Don't understand why longtime mascots are being changed?
"Schools around Vermont reconsider mascots that have racial, cultural ties."
"Keller High School Students are Fighting to Change a Mascot They See as Racist"
"Charlotte schools have debated 'offensive' mascot names for decades. What's changed?"
Congratulations, this post is for you...
If you live in the West Chester, PA area, you may have heard about this:
On Thursday September 17th, Henderson's students and parents received an email from the principal announcing that the mascot depicting Native American imagery for over a hundred years was to be changed.
How it happened:
Over the summer, a google forum petition, started by Kylie Quigley, Savannah Skinner, Joey Belano, Keshvi Chedda, Lucy Olsen, and Annie Curtis began spreading around calling for the imagery of the school's mascot to be changed. The petition spread to instagram, other social medias, and a few alumni of the school to help it reach more people.
"I lived for a few years in New Mexico and took a New Mexico history class, most of which was was defined by the struggles and horrors that indigenous peoples faced. I've seen a different side of the country that many people in Pennsylvania haven't seen because we don't have a large indigenous population. I saw a low firsthand, things that most people just hear about in history class." -Kylie
"What really inspired this change was I was on tiktok and there is a Navajo woman that I follow. She makes tiktoks bringing awareness about the missing and murdered indigenous women across the country. She also makes tiktoks about the poor and racist representation of Native Americans, which includes mascots. Her tiktoks really got me thinking about what I can do to support her voice and make a change, which for me, meant supporting her call for the Native American image to be removed as a mascot." -Kylie
A brief history of the Lenape and the colonizers:
Before the colonization of the Europeans, the Lenape tribe lived in the Philadelphia area for almost ten thousand years. In 1683, the tribe signed a treaty with William Penn, during the vast colonization of Pennsylvania, the land the Lenape tribe lived on. In 1737, after William Penn's death, his heirs defrauded the tribe out of what has speculated over as over a million acres of land. In 1758, the treaty of Easton forced the Lenape out of their original lands and forced them west to the Ohio area. Though even that did not last, with the colonization of the Americans pushing the tribe further and further west.
"When our school was first built, the US government didn't even recognize Native Americans as US citizens until 1924, a sad disregard for the complex societies that had lived here before us. They were treated as foreigners on their own sacred homeland and even still, for decades countless schools used their destroyed culture as a fun image to put on a football jersey." -Kylie
The importance of righting wrongs:
"Stereotypical images like the indigenous man's head our school uses do little to honor the Lenape without the proper education of the tribe backed behind it. It invites the use of dreamcatchers as a symbol of a sports team rather than a symbol of a disappearing culture, inviting students to attend football games wearing traditional headdresses with complete disregard for its significance, and perhaps most dangerously, it invites the normalization of young students seeing Native American tribes as a costume and not a culture." -Kylie
Image caption: The Lenape tribe in 2016 in Delaware. The tribe is still not federally recognized.
"Our district stands for equity, as seen by its Equity Mission, but by keeping a racist mascot, we aren't honoring that missions. Some of the goals of that mission is to teach anti-racism and create an environment where students can feel safe, respected, and appreciated, but we are concerned that any Native American students or visitors will not be able to feel this way when the images we have in our school demote them to nothing more than a mascot. We want to change our mascot to something that will help everyone feel like a valued and respected member of our community." -Kylie
What does Change in 2020 mean?:
In Dr. Sherlock's email detailing the change, he said "[The Henderson community] is a community that strives to be inclusive and embrace diversity, while remaining connected to our traditions. Perhaps one of the proudest traditions is our mascot, the Warrior. Over the summer, our administration took an in-depth look at this tradition. We wanted to learn more about the history of the Henderson Warrior, its association with Native American Indian Iconography, and how it is perceived through the lens of inclusiveness and diversity." He also mentions speaking directly to Native Americans on the topic.
According to Kylie, there was backlash from parents and students "who didn't understand why a mascot change was necessary, when it is. A lot of people were holding onto that tradition of the Henderson Warriors, which we still are, but we don't need a belittling and stereotypical mascot to still hold onto the years of tradition we have. I really think it's important to create a safe place in school where nobody is going to feel less than anybody else just because of their background. We need to be promoting and supporting Native American voices. They have been speaking out for years about the harmful and offensive stereotypes we promote in media."
"I do appreciate them reaching out to the Lenape tribe for their voice because their voice is the one that matters in this situation and countless historians about understanding our history and where the name came from. I also support keeping the name Warriors, but the removal of the dreamcatcher and Native American image as our mascot." -Kylie
What you can do right now:
First and foremost, educate yourself. Much of what I researched to write the article was completely new to me. Though we may consider ourselves to be well educated on the history of our country and its people, it is important to remember our education is inherently one sided. To ignore the many other sides, which often are the ones historically most silenced, is to be ignorant. And ignorance is not just a personal shortcoming, it continues to cause harm to Native American tribes today.
Do not contribute to cultural appropriation. An offensive mascot is a problem. A cheaply made dreamcatcher from a factory sold only for profit is a problem. The list goes on and on.
Learn from Native American voices. Donate to organizations that help Native American reservations. Call out ignorance.
Seriously, it's 2020, not being a part of the problem doesn't mean anything if you're not part of the solution.