Change the Name of the Nyack Mascot

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Change the Name of the Nyack Mascot

This petition made change with 2,961 supporters!
Leah Brand started this petition to Nyack School Board and

To the Nyack School Board and Nyack High School Administration:

We, current students and alumni of Nyack High School, believe that the Nyack School District must hold itself accountable for creating the kinds of changes that they supposedly wish to see. The district has begun to prioritize anti-racist initiatives in recent years, including workshops like Undoing Racism, and the hiring of the inaugural Director of Equity.  Despite these initiatives that have been so proudly presented to the community as a whole, the district and administration have not truly held themselves accountable for ensuring a commitment to anti-racist pedagogy. The message sent to students and the community directly contradicts the district’s initiatives by the current name of our mascot.  

If the Nyack Schools Administration truly wishes to eliminate racism, then we need to address the mascot.  Nyack Schools cannot possibly promote tolerance and keep the “Indian” name at the same time.  The last time this issue was presented was in 2003, when the board agreed to the removal of the racist image of our school’s mascot.  We believe that this was a step in the right direction.  However, it was simply not enough and does not absolve the district and community of the racism of keeping the name.  We should instead pick a mascot that is not too offensive to depict, something that we can all be proud of.

Many of us were athletes during our time at Nyack High School, or represented the school in some other capacity.  There was, however, never a time in which we were proud to wear the “Indian” name across our jerseys.   It has never been okay to name a sports team after an entire race of people.  It continues to shock many of us that this name was supposed to be something that promoted pride, when we continue to learn about the history of Indigenous people on our own. We were never taught about the history of Native Americans in this area by those who handed us the jerseys before each season. The pride that so many claim with the name of our mascot, we argue, does not lie in the name, but rather the school and community that has been built.  Changing the name of our mascot would allow us to be proud of the school that has shaped the people who we’ve become and it would allow us to serve as an example of tolerance and anti-racism, which are stated goals of the Nyack School District.

The American Psychological Association website says the use of Native American mascots in schools are “undermining the educational experiences of members of all communities-especially those who have had little or no contact with indigenous peoples.  The symbols, images, and mascots teach non-native children that it’s acceptable to participate in culturally abusive behavior and perpetuate inaccurate misconceptions about Indigenous cultures.” The use of the “Indian” name has led to the perpetuation of misleading and harmful stereotypes about Indigenous people.  The historical myths that have whitewashed the history of oppression and violence towards Native people in this country are dangerous and unacceptable.  

The naming of land and schools after Indigenous people is part of an implicit white supremacist narrative that functions to convince white Americans that Indigenous people no longer exist, when this is simply not true.  Nyack High School is on land that was stolen from the Ramapough Lenape Nation.  This is not only about teaching history, but also about the present. Steven Burton, tribal member and Commissioner of Indian Affairs of New Jersey representing the Ramapough Lenape Nation says, “we reject the use of effigies as mascots because we are not dead.  If the reason we were chosen was to honor us, please don’t.  There is no honor in what was done to our people.”  As an institution of learning, it is your duty to accurately represent this country’s history and present to the students. 

One imperative step towards this goal is the removal of the “Indian” name.

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