Change the mascot for Murray County High School
Change the mascot for Murray County High School
Why this petition matters
To preface this, I would like to bring up that Chatsworth, Georgia has a rich history, and it’s citizens are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. I understand the significance the mascot holds to many of the people that were born, raised, and grew up being an “Indian”. I am not attacking you for loving your mascot and the ties it brings you and the community at large, I do not think you’re a bad person for not understanding or knowing why so many people, especially the indigenous people, do not want to see a stereotype of their heritage and cultural practices being used to cheer at a football game.
This is not a political issue, this is not to say that any person is racist, or any other derogatory term, just unaware of why the use of the caricature of a Native American is wrong. This is not a call to arms to destroy anything, my goal here is to educate and hopefully sway some minds for change to be made.
Chatsworth, Georgia is located in a place where multiple indigenous tribes lived. It is the home of Spring Place, where a missionary roomed and taught more than 100 indigenous children between the years 1804 and 1833, before Georgian citizens forced it to close. They were not like the boarding schools that forced native children to acclimate to western civilization, they were not forced to give up their customs or their religious beliefs. During its years many of the children were offspring of the Cherokee leaders, who grew up to believe the way to keep their independence from the American government was to learn about their culture and become an educated elite, unfortunately they were not given the opportunity to do so, and were forced from their land along with the missionaries that refused to fight against them. They were not forced to convert and adopt the colonies customs.
I do not think the adoption of the Native American as a school mascot was in any way meant to be disparaging towards indigenous people, that it was meant to symbolize triumph, and strength, and I can see coming from that viewpoint why many people think it isn’t a big deal and to just let it go. However they are misinformed on the importance that a headdress has.
Headdresses are beautiful, no one will deny it. Many people wear them to festivals, as Halloween costumes, and as Murray does, as mascots. But has anyone ever sat and read about the history and cultural significance that is behind it?
For starters, headdresses should not be worn to any of the above mentioned areas. They are typically not worn, or made by women. They are not bought, or traded already made. Headdresses are earned, and every feather is meant to signify something, whether that be a conquest, an act of bravery or strength, or after fasting for several days as a show of loyalty to the tribe. Headdresses take years to become what they are, and only the most respected have them. I would consider them akin to the Medal of Honor, the highest of military medals.
Contrary to what some may think, they are not a historical relic that people can say “well it’s in the past, who cares?” There is a differences between dressing up as a gladiator from Rome, where such practices have been dead for hundreds of years, compared to a practice that is still used today. Headdresses are used for weddings, and powwows, which are meetings that involve feasting, dancing, and singing, among other ceremonial purposes, and you still have to earn them before you can receive one.
In short, indigenous culture is not a costume, it is not to be put on at the beginning of football games, having someone run across the field in a horse with a torch. It perpetuates a stereotype of indigenous people, no matter how subtle it may be, and it ignores the larger history and cultural significance that is behind the headdress and the garments worn. Indigenous culture is more than a school mascot, it is more than a football game.
What can we do as a community to bring about change? We can ask the school to change their mascot, and in turn they can arrange a school wide contest on who can come up with the best school mascot, encourage the artistic students to come up with a new design that can be painted and used as mural, our local businesses hosting fundraisers to come up with the money for new uniforms. The pandemic would be an especially great time to do this, as it would help build the community up, and give a chance to focus on something other than the virus/politics.
-please note I know I did not include a photo of any of the girls in Murray county that have dressed in indigenous attire for their school, and the photo presented is not from Murray high, they are minors and I do not feel comfortable posting their image on a site that could potentially bring them harm from strangers-
For more information on Indigenous headdresses, and the spring place missionaries here are some links:
Indigenous people speaking out against their culture being used as mascots: