September 14, 2009

Choosing the Tuscarora mascot

No Offense Intended

Loudoun School Named for Tribe Treads A Tricky Course: Selecting the Mascot

By Michael Alison Chandler
Selecting a mascot is an important early step in creating a school community. Paul-Jacobs posted an invitation on the school's Web site inviting future students to contribute ideas. Close to 200 suggestions came back, including the Tuscarora Ticks, the Terminators, the Tigers and the Tarantulas. Three top picks emerged: the Huskies, the Timber Wolves and the Tribe.

Paul-Jacobs was excited at the overwhelming response but paused at the suggestion of the Tribe. She had flashes of Chief Wahoo, the Cleveland Indians' mascot, and thought it might be too controversial. But then again, "maybe I am being too sensitive," she said. Her students had compelling reasons for choosing the name. A tribe signifies "a family and people coming together for a greater cause, the strength of the collective group," she said.

Should it go on the ballot? She decided last week to consult Teresa Morris, founder of the Coastal Carolina Indian Center and a descendant of Tuscarora Indians, who remained in North Carolina.

Morris said she was honored that the school community chose the name Tuscarora but felt that "to go beyond that could border into disrespect, intended or not," Paul-Jacob recounted. "If people show up at a game wearing war paint, if they make Indian chants, it has no meaning to them. But for Native American people, they do have meaning," she related after her conversation with Morris.

In an e-mail, Morris suggested that the school consider the cardinal, Virginia's state bird, as a mascot. That would be a symbol that could represent everyone rather than singling out one racial group, she reasoned.

Many Native Americans or advocates say a neutral mascot for an Indian-named school is best. Clif Morton, of the Wisconsin Indian Education Association Mascot and Logo task force, offered what could be called the "locker test." Say it's homecoming, and your high school team is known as "the Tribe." How do you decorate your locker?

Too often, he said, lockers are covered with tomahawks, spears or generic profiles of Indians that have nothing to do with the specific history of any tribe and perpetuate a warlike stereotype.

Paul-Jacobs thought for a few days and ultimately decided to remove "Tribe" from the list of choices. "I felt really uncomfortable with it," she said.
Comment:  Principal Paul-Jacobs did a good job of thinking through the mascot choice. She considered "Tribe," consulted a Tuscarora Indian, and wisely decided against it.

For more on the subject, see Team Names and Mascots.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I find it a bit perplexing that a school administator in the debate on the subject of sports mascots, hasn't yet get the full scope of the message surrounding the controversaries of using "Indianz" as mascots. After several dozens of H.S. and a couple of Universities nationwide, had decided against and/or dropped their "Indian mascots" altogether. Obviously this person didn't get the full scope of the message behind the "Indian mascot" idea. Just a mild flashbacks of chief wahoo. Its unfortunate, albeit not bad news, that the message hasn't reach the ultimate exposure we had hope. With UND currently as a sitting duck and the weaknesses of the Lakotah people unable to defend themselves, I hope the issue came to rest in favor of opposing the use of Indian mascots. I'm glad the woman who said she was descendent of the Tuscarora Tribe, advised the school administrator to root for the cardinal. Just when I was reading the part where she felt "honored", I was almost in aghast at another prospect that we have another woefully ignorant indian giving feedback(just like fallacious--David A. Yeagley). A sick disgrace to the Indians in general. But sure enough, it was sigh of relief and victory is ours once again.

GENO aka Shadow Wolf