Tuesday Aug. 11,  1998
The Native American Intertribal Association pushed a petition Monday at the Buncombe County Board of
Education that would eliminate what they say is a derogative image from being used at Erwin High
School.   Erwin's girl teams are called "Squaws,"  which translated in some Native American languages
may mean prostitute or may refer to a woman's genital area.
Association leaders, who, for the past two years have pursued the issue, took turns blasting the board on
this first day of school.  "The term 'squaw' is particularly offensive because it refers to a woman's genital
area and connotes among Indians someone who is worse than a prostitute," said Bruce Two Eagles.
The protesters, holding placards and some wearing Indian garb, blamed board members for perpetuating a
symbol that is sexist, racist and ultimately offends American Indians.
"Across the county, schools and universities are recognizing that American Indians are being hurt by the
mascot stereotypes just as African-Americans were hurt by the "little black Sambo images,"  Two Eagles
said,  who wore a t-shirt, stating "America was built on Indian graves."  This "is not about being politically
correct,  it is about showing basic human decency,"  Two Eagles added.
The group expects to present the petition in November.  Despite the protest, it is unlikely that the board
will change the image.  School officials are expected to back Erwin students who voted in May to retain
the image and Erwin administrators aren't interested in taking a re-vote.
This is unfortunate for the group which contends that the issue is racially motivated.  The decision is a
victory, on the other hand, for Erwin alumni who believe the image is a part of their school's history.
"They say this is a tradition, but public hanging was a tradition,"  Two Eagles said.
The group, which lists 27 members from 17 tribes, hopes it can avoid a lawsuit, but points out that the
board is violating its own discrimination policy.
Board Chairman Wendell Begley and Gov. Jim Hunt back the group.  Begley added that he wouldn't
support a defense if the association filed a lawsuit.