Since news broke of the school board’s intention to form a committee to evaluate whether or not to replace “Redskin” as the school’s mascot, much controversy has swirled in our small town. Over 700 online comments have been made on news and social media pages in just 5 days.
While the suggestion may have been well intentioned, we believe it represents an unnecessarily divisive approach to the end objective of promoting acceptance and understanding of those different than ourselves. In fact, the suggestion of removing a “label” that does not describe those in our town who object to it has had the opposite effect. We have heard more derogatory labels attached to those with an opposing opinion in the last 5 days than we have in a very long time.
Local members of the Native American community have weighed in. In all of the posts that we have read, no one of Native American ancestry has expressed an issue with the name Redskin. In fact, most have expressed outrage that someone from another culture is again defining for them what issue they should be most concerned with and just how they should feel about it.
We believe a much more positive and progressive approach to achieve the objective of honoring the Native American culture in our community would be to do the following. Drop the effort to evaluate changing the name. Most long standing residents find that offensive to our sense of shared community in Port Townsend. Instead we request that the school board form a committee to determine the best way to include local Native American education in the Port Townsend curriculum. We believe this would bring numerous positive and unifying benefits including helping to preserve a culture and history that is a very important part of our community heritage. There are plenty of fine members of local Native American tribes who could be drawn upon to help in this effort. The subject matter could be added to existing courses or offered as a standalone class, but we think it should be mandatory for graduation. The money saved from not changing the mascot name could be put towards hiring part time consultants or experts and for providing course material. Native Americans who have suffered from discrimination also have valuable lessons to teach about personal pride and self reliance that got them through tough times and can help students with contemporary issues like bullying and self esteem.
The National Congress for American Indians provides for situations like this in their 2005 resolution on Indian Mascots. “BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NCAI acknowledges that tribes, schools and sports teams can work together in ways that are respectful of tribal culture and respects the right of each tribe and tribal community to decide for itself how best to protect and celebrate its heritage and make their own decisions regarding their relationships with school and university sports teams;”