Methodists representing 1,146 churches throughout Western North Carolina went on record at Lake Junaluska last week affirming the the dignity of Native Americans. They asked local churches to work to eliminate demeaning mascots or nicknames in schools, colleges and universities.
Their action should have a direct effect on Methodists-related schools that might have symbols that demean American Indians--and a far-reaching effect, given the influence that members of the church wield in the society at large.
The church had earlier stated its position on the issue by asking the Buncombe County Board of Education to discontinue the use of the words "squaw" and "warriors" as sports teams mascots and nicknames at Erwin High School. The school did abandon the controversial name for the girls' athletic team in favor of "Lady Warriors."
Robert Mangum, director of the Methodist Southeastern Jurisdictional Agency for Native american Ministries, said he wished the school also had discontinued "warriors." That matter should remain on the table.
Many American Indians are members of Methodist Churches, so it is significant that in 1996 this large denomination called for repentance for the Church's role in "the dehumanization and colonization of our Native American sisters and brothers." By giving substance to that earlier resolution, the Methodist Church has set an example that deserves the attention of other churches and of individuals in our nation.