One N.C. school system not ready to get rid of Indian mascots
The Associated Press
March 28, 2003
At least one school system in the state has for now rejected a recommendation by the state's school chief to get rid of its American Indian mascots and nicknames.
"On an issue like this, when it becomes divisive within the community, I think you've got to take a look at it," said Ron Carroll, the superintendent of Stokes CountySchools. "From my perspective, it's not been a divisive issue. It's really been asource of unity. It's always been looked at almost with reverence."
Stokes County has used a Saura Indian mascot and the Saura nickname at South StokesHigh School for 39 years. Southeastern Stokes Middle School also has an Indianwarrior mascot.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Ward sent letters in November to school systems that use Indian imagery and recommended changes. School systems were supposed to report back to Raleigh on Friday with a plan of action.
The Stokes County Board of Education has taken no action on the use of the American Indian mascots.
"All we're doing is going back and paying homage to the people who settled this community," said John Booth, principal of South Stokes High School. His office is adorned with two Indian dolls and a blanket portraying Indian life. No American Indian students are enrolled at South Stokes High, a rural school near Germanton with about 700 students.
The Saura Tribe lived in Stokes County sometime before 1700. Some scholars believe they were eventually absorbed into the Cherokee Tribe. No Saura Indians remain today.
"That's certainly a historic tribe. My question would be, has the county and theschool system done anything to promote the positive images of the tribe? Any specialmemorials? Do they collect donations for native American causes?" asked Gregory Richardson, executive director of the North Carolina Commission on Indian Affairs inRaleigh.
In 2001, Richardson and others began urging the state superintendent to control the use of Indian imagery in North Carolina's schools because images considered honorable by schools and athletic teams are often considered demeaning by Indians.
According to the state Department of Public Instruction, 43 public schools use Indian mascots, down from 68 in 2001.
North Carolina has the largest Indian population east of the Mississippi River.According to the N.C. Commission on Indian Affairs, 80,000 Indians are living in the state, and there are seven tribes - the Eastern Band of Cherokee, Coharie,Haliwa-Saponi, Indians of Person County, Lumbee, Meherrin and Waccamaw-Siouan.
The bottom line for Richardson is how schools depict Indians. For example, he appreciates South Stokes' mural depicting Saura life in the valley of the Dan. The tomahawk chop used at football games supports a distorted view of Indian life.
"It's just the matter of approach," Richardson said. "If it's turned into an educational effort, that's a win-win situation, but that's not happening in some cases."
Stokes County school officials said they wouldn't stand by the Indian images if they believed they were offensive. They have also discussed their own bottom line.
Yvonne Rutledge, a school-board member, said the school would have to purchase new uniforms for its 34 athletic teams. Tim Lawson, the school's athletics director, said new baseball uniforms displaying the Saura name and a tomahawk cost the school about $3,000 this year.
"To me, if I was a member of the Saura Indian tribe, I would feel very honored," Lawson said. "We put it on a pedestal."
(This article includes Information from: Winston-Salem Journal)
Reaction to this article:
"In time, we will even touch the hearts and minds of those who disagree with us."
Dr. Louise Maynor, Chair
North Carolina Advisory Council on Indian Education