Loudoun School Named for Tribe Treads A Tricky Course: Selecting the Mascot
By Michael Alison Chandler
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.
For more on the subject, see Team Names and Mascots.