Transcripts and letters

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Stand : One Thread

Letters to editor and transcripts of Board meetings, etc. Good place to put anything else that is bulky too.

-- Anonymous, April 01, 2000

Answers

Maybe they should be discussed in the sections that pertain to them rather than here?

-- Anonymous, April 01, 2000

When I make reels and send resumes for film jobs my agent suggests keeping it as short as possible, never show anything but the best work and keep the details limited. In other words, create the most concise picture of yourself but keep it short. Otherwise, people skim over lengthy bios and reels and the impression gets lost. We Americans have short attention spans. :-)

-- Anonymous, April 02, 2000

To Commissioner Mills:

Dear Commissioner Mills, By now I trust you are well aware of the conflict in the Onteora school district over the Indian mascot. There is a wealth of information at the American Indian Sports Team Mascot site (http://earnestman.tripod.com/1indexpage.htm) showing that this is not just a conflict particular to our district, but is a nationwide movement, endorsed overwhelmingly by Native Americans and their allies. Im sure that you are aware how important it is that no single race or ethnic group should be singled out to be a magical good luck charm for the football teams of our public schools. We wouldnt dare call our team the Onteora Italians or the Onteora Jews. Im sure you are aware that the distorted view of the noble savage popularized centuries ago by Rousseau and others is alive and well in some of our public schools, with many Native Americans finding that being put on a pedestal for being noble and proud is as unrealistic a stereotype as any other. This cartooning of one segment of our population that is endorsed by numerous schools creates a hostile educational environment not just for those who are of that race, but for other children who are being inculcated with the idea that since the school approves of it, racial stereotyping must be all right. Where is the educational value in allowing this practice to continue? What is the educational value in letting this battle be fought in district after district, diverting our precious time, energy and resources that could be better focused on the education of our children? Must this difficult decision be battled each time in dozens of other districts, pitting neighbor against neighbor? I think you probably know the rational reasons for issuing a total ban on Indian mascots. Id like to discuss the human costs that this issue has imposed on our community, and the grave damage that has been sustained, damage that I feel no other school system should have to sustain if it is at all avoidable. When some of us originally supported Dennis Yerry in his request to remove the Indian as school mascot at Onteora, we assumed it would be easy. Both sides agree that the mascot was picked 50 years ago in all innocence, at a time when most of us didnt question our attitudes about race, especially if we were white. We figured that as we eased into the Twenty-first Century that it would be so obviously an embarrassing anachronism, like having a black cast-iron lawn jockey out front. We thought that when we discussed how an Indian mascot is hurtful to a child whose family practices many of the old Native American ways, that there would be empathy. We were wrong. We were astounded at the depth of sentimental feeling for the mascot, multigenerational identification with it as a school symbol. We listened, heard cheerleaders and football players who dont have a drop of Native American blood fervently tell us that they are Indians. That pep rally attitude began to turn sour, and expose some deeper, more unpleasant attitudes behind them. Hostile petitions circulated, saying that itinerant district residents were trying to remove the mascot. The words outsiders and newcomers began to show up more and more in the debate, and there was much resentment that the outsiders were trying to come in and tell them what to do. It was clear that the May School Board elections were going to be a de facto referendum on the issue. The positions seemed to be split by class and race, with the more affluent. better educated, and more racially diverse Woodstock end of the district supporting the removal of the Indian mascot. One of the Board members who won the election and has worked to return the Indian mascot seemed proud to proclaim some of the parents who didnt agree with him strange looking Rastafarians, giving many parents grave concern as to whether their children would have any opportunities for fairness from this Board given that attitude. But the election results (miss-stated by Board president Millman, who publicly claimed a 75/25 split on the vote when it was actually 58/42) , clearly demonstrated a mandate from the majority of the people who wanted the Indian mascot reinstated. They called it a triumph of democracy. The people who support the Indian mascot do not think of themselves as racists, though a look through Onteora year books over the years shows some disturbing evidence that racist depictions of the Indian and of blacks have been tolerated in the past.. Their argument seems purely based on emotionalism and sentiment, and weve seen no evidence that they have researched the Indian mascot issue beyond its local manifestation. We have not seen any acknowledgement in their writings or speech that the Constitutional protection of the rights of minorities has any relevance, that honoring tolerance and diversity in our area is a laudable goal, nor have they spoken of healing the rifts that have developed in the community. Our attempts to bring in mediation have been rejected, as have our efforts to present educational materials on the issue to the students and community. High school students attempting to pick a new mascot were given little support or guidance. Even more disturbing is the undertone of violence that has developed, as if the mural showing an angry Indian warrior bursting through the cafeteria wall brandishing a weapon wasnt chilling enough in this post-Columbine climate. There have been phone threats, tires punctured and other damage to cars, and one of the Board members was followed home by a pickup that shone a light into her home, with the driver announcing he knew where she lived. Ive had people (including one teenager who was finally dragged away by his friends) screaming in my face after speaking at a Board meeting, and for the first time ever was concerned for my physical safety at my childrens school. The polarization in the community has set adrift the precarious live-and-let-live relationship between those who grew up here, and those who grew up elsewhere but who have deep roots now in this community and are raising our children here. Commissioner Mills, you have the power to ban the use of racial or ethnic mascots in our schools, whether Indian or not. If you make it a mere suggestion that towns do the right thing, it will have no force behind it. Other communities will still have to face the struggle we faced, and may suffer the same consequences. Dont let another school district get torn apart over an issue that should be a non-issue in the year 2000. There are no educational benefits to having an Indian mascot that could possibly over-ride the harm it does to Native Americans and other children who belong to minorities. You will need to offer some guidance for districts on why this is important and how they can best make the transition to a new mascot. Those of us who have worked on this in the Onteora district will be happy to assist in any way possible. Please ban these dehumanizing Indian mascots, for the healing of our communities and for the sake of our childrens education. Sincerely, Carol Maltby cc: Adrian Cook To project dignity, honor, respect, strength, and pride onto a manufactured image while simultaneously displaying an inability to accord those very same things to living Indians seeking to be heard speaks volumes about just how great the level of miseducation is on this topic.  American Indian Imagery and the Miseducation of America by Ellen J. Staurowsky, Ed.D.

-- Anonymous, June 12, 2000


aaargh, the paragraphs got lost in the transfer. Picture it with clean, sensible breaks at the appropriate places.

-- Anonymous, June 12, 2000

Proposed letter to Tanya Washington (will be cc'd to Hal Rowe and Charles Yow):

Tanya,

I'm planning on coming to the Onteora meeting on Thursday. You and I haven't met before, I'm a member of STAND.

Since you were looking for input from residents, I'm going to send my thoughts as a series of emails to you, since my perspective on the Onteora Indian mascot covers a lot of ground. Most of the pieces were either addressed to the Board of Education, or to the Woodstock Times for the wider community, so think of them in context. I've spent a lot of time carefully crafting the pieces, so that I was expressing my ideas as rationally and respectfully as possible. I have preferred to keep my public contact in this either in written form or in a prepared speech, because I didn't want to make any slip- ups in any face-to-face confrontations that arose.

In this private letter, however, I'm going to be a little more blunt and honest than I have in my public speech. I ask that what I say in this paprticular letter be kept confidential, though you may share it with anyone in the Attorney General's office.

My current feelings about this whole issue, not expressed so much in any of the other earlier writings, are a bit more pessimistic and angry. At this point I'm afraid I'm in a more intransigent mood and less inclined to bridge-building. I was one of the people who had a couple of screws in my tires, and I consider this a terrorist action. Attempted murder does not make me feel like compromising. I don't give a litmus test to the kids who ride in my car who could have been killed by a blow-out, their parents are just as likely to support the Indian mascot as to be against it. If this issue has led to people trying to kill each other, it is time for the authorities to step in, and stop giving communities the license to hurt their residents over a football team good-luck charm.

I find it destructive and divisive that Joe Doan and Rose Ostrander have repeatedly sought to exploit their offensive notion of this being an issue of "outsiders" causing trouble. I've lived here for 15 years (grew up in a little rural town in NJ very much like this area), and my kids were born here. We have never heard anything in the public dialogue from the pro-mascot forces about healing any divisions that the issue may have created. No public expressions from them of "what can we do to realize that we are all here in this community, no matter what our differences on issues." I don't think this is just about the mascot -- I think the real issues are fear, ignorance and xenophobia, with the mascot a convenient rallying point and excuse.

CARE and the others who are in favor of the Indian mascot have never given any reasonable educational justification for keeping the Indian mascot. We're not talking of a professional sports team here, we are talking about a public educational institution, and we must not lose sight of that. Their plaints have been purely based on personal emotional grounds, with no supportive documentation presented by them that there is any educational value to the Indian mascot. They have exhibited no understanding that the Indian mascot issue is not just a parochial Onteora issue, but is one that has affected many schools in the country. Indeed, they have never shown in any public statements that they understand what STAND and other have said about the issue at all, and many of their statements have been outright wrong or based on false premises. We have not seen any acknowledgement in their writings or speech that the Constitutional protection of the rights of minorities has any relevance, that honoring tolerance and diversity in our area is a laudable goal. We had Marty Millman lying both in the Kingston Freeman and at a Board meeting about how the anti-mascot vote was only maybe 20%, when it was in reality double that at 42%, if the Board election was indeed a defacto referendum. (Marty is a pharmacist, people's lives depend on him doing elementary school arithmatic accurately, and he is responsible for a multimillion dollar school budget. Was he lying or incompetent? Pick one).

This summer we gathered together some educational material on the mascot issue and sent the packets by certified mail to all the Onteora Board of Education members, so that they would not be able to say they hadn't been educated on the facts. Onteora Trustee Fred Perry refused his, and sent it back to STAND unopened. Should a group with such an anti-intellectual bias have so much power over our educational system? Is this ignorant and hostile group actually representative of the people in our district, or a noisy pressure group?

We've done what we could to educate on this issue. We tried to get "In Whose Honor?" shown at the high school, and held a small (and poorly attended) public showing of it and other films on Indian mascots. We've posted a resource list on the Internet, and have a substantial educational website forthcoming. At no time have we felt that we had the will, cooperation and support of the high school and middle school staff to use this as an educational opportunity. High school students attempting to pick a new mascot were given little support or guidance. To me that has been one of the most disappointing aspects of this. Given the racist images and caricatures we have seen in the Onteora yearbooks, it is clear that there is an acceptance of stereotypes by our high school staff that has grave potential for damaging the educational experience of our children, especially if they belong to the minorities being caricatured.

We understand that many people who grew up here have a profound connection to their school days, and that the mascot symbolizes much about who they were in that very intense time of their lives. But the whole point of high school is learning how to move beyond high school. Romantic nostalgia for an experience decades ago has no business tainting the education of my children who are in the Onteora system now.

This conflict has split the communities in the district on so many levels: educational, religious, class, political affiliations. The multi-racial membership of COLOR and STAND contrasts with the more racially monolithic CARE. As a room mother in my children's classroom, I've found that every year I had to do a little educational work with the other Olive room mothers to make them understand the need for sensitivity to other cultures in our holiday classroom celebrations, since many of them did not grow up exposed to much multiculturalism and aren't even automatically aware of things like sensitivities to the needs of Jewish students when celebrating holidays like Christmas and Easter. Those who grew up locally in a white Christian monoculture seem to have some difficulty with those who are different. One man actually came into a local coffee shop and confided in the server that it was "those Jews" causing all the problem about the mascot. This is a community that has some really problems about diversity, and wishing and hoping won't make them go away.

From the beginning of this I was very careful not to use the word "racist" in my writings, as I knew that too many of the people here would not understand that racism is not just hating people of another race. Putting a race or other group on a pedestal as being inherently noble and brave is racism too, and in some ways that big lie can be just as damaging. Don't let Onteora poison my kids -- or any other kids -- with lies about Indians. The Indian images must go. The Indian name must go. I want my kids to learn truth about Native Americans, to learn about all the complexities of culture and individuals they represent. I don't want my kids to become wannabees worshipping some idealized pin-up that has nothing to do with past or present reality.

Let's reframe our question in another way. Would we compromise if the symbol that the school had had for 50 years, the symbol the community was attached to, was a Confederate flag?

I'm looking forward to meeting you. Thank you for all the efforts you've made in this matter.

Sincerely,

Carol

Carol Maltby 23 Mill Road Olivebridge, NY 12461 (845)657-7057

-- Anonymous, September 04, 2000



Tanaz,

I hope the rest of your interviews have gone well.

I don't know if you made it clear to Morty before I arrived, but I wasn't sure if your voice was going to be asking questions on the finished film, or if our answers should have subtly included the questions to give better context. Might want to articulate that better to others.

A few questions I'd love to see you ask people like Rose Ostrander, Barbara Clare, and the others such as the trustees who favor retaining the Indian mascot, since they've never satisfactorily answered them in public:

Why do they feel that "majority rules" is an appropriate response to this issue, when we have constitutional protection for the rights of minorities?

They have never stated any actual educational values that would be enhanced by retaining the Indian mascot, and have never indicated that they realize that this issue can be hurtful for Native American children . Why has this become an emotional political issue, rather than one decided strictly on educational grounds? [Note: Greg Walters told former Trustee Maureen Millar that he didn't want to be educated on the issue. that he would vote the way the people who elected him wanted to (for confirmation on this and exact wording, contact Maureen: mmillar00@hotmail.com). All the trustees had been sent an informational packet on the mascot issue by certified mail this summer. Fred Perry sent his back unopened, refused delivery]. Why should people who can't knowledgeably discuss educational issues be making educational decisions?

Why do they keep saying it is a local issue, when Native American groups all over the country have indicated overwhelmingly that they feel using a single race as a mascot is disrespectful and doesn't honor them?

Feathers are a part of religious regalia for many Native American cultures, and to many are inherently sacred. Why do they think it is respectful to have gym classes doing jumping jacks on pictures of religious artifacts?

Why do they keep trying to suggest that it is a small minority in the district who wish to retire the mascot, when a full 42% of the votes cast in the May school Board election were by voters who supported the candidates who wanted the mascot removed? Why do they think Marty Millman gave an erroneous figure to the Daily Freeman reporter and to the public at a Board meeting, when he said that the number of votes supporting the mascot removal was only 20%, when that figure is fully half the actual figure? Martin Millman is a pharmacist, people's lives depend upon his being able to do accurate elementary school math calculations, and people are trusting him with millions of dollars of district funds. Was he lying, or was he incompetent? (If you want to look into inconsistencies, look into Millman's complaints of anti-Semitism against his wife around a year ago, and try to find out why he is willing to support offensive stereotypes of another minority group but not his. Did I mention to you that one man felt bold enough to walk into a local coffeehouse and announce to the astonished server that it was the Jews who were behind the Indian mascot issue?)

Speaking of numbers, there were no letters disputing the figures in the May 4 Woodstock Times profiles of the candidates for the school board elections this spring. The total number of years lived in the area for the candidates who wanted to retire the mascot (Millar 18, Boundy, and Rosato 19) was greater than that given for the candidates who supported keeping the mascot (Walters13, Millman, and Perry). [I'm not sure where I got the other figures, they are not in that article now that I look at it. Earlier issues?] Who then were the newcomers?

More ironic inconsistencies: about a year ago, there was an attempt to open a Native American cultural center in the Olive area that would be run by a tribe that is not native to this area. It would have been at a site that would have had negative environmental impacts, and was roundly denounced by many local residents, and the plan ultimately defeated. Discuss whether these Indians were brave and noble, and whether they were planning to live lightly on the earth. Discuss whether the cigarette smuggling by Native Americans in NY State reservations is brave and noble. (My mother was on a ventilator for the last 6 weeks of her life, her lungs being unable to support independent breathing due to the heavy smoking habit she'd had for decades, even though she'd stopped smoking 20 years ago. This is a real hot button for me. When I hear of cigarette smugglers, I don't hear brave and noble, I hear murder on the installment plan)

Discuss whether the football team needs to be brave and noble, or whether they need to be smarter, faster and more flexible. If the football team had a different group as a mascot, how comfortable would they feel cheering" I'm a Jew!" or "I'm an African-American!" instead of "I'm an Indian!" ? (Given that damming of rivers to make the Ashokan Reservoir shaped so much of the district's history this century, I'd sure like to see the football players and cheerleaders chanting "I'm a Dike!", but I don't think that one will fly...) Discuss whether Norwegians, Rastafarians, people from Northern Ireland, and Serbians are brave and noble. Trustee Fred Perry was quoted by the New York Times on May 14 as having referred to "strange-looking Rastafarians." Discuss whether there are any consensus on whether there are any other strange-looking groups of people in the Onteora district. Ask if it would be OK to retain the name of Indians, but use as a logo a picture of a Native American woman spinning, or making pottery, or using a computer.

The area was permanently changed when the building of the Ashokan Reservoir destroyed the communities where the reservoir now stands. Discuss the influx of "outsiders" who stayed in the area after building the reservoir, and whether that was harmful. Discuss whether many local residents are still holding a grudge.

A number of members of the group STAND (Support Tolerance and Nurture Diversity) who have spoken out against the Indian mascot have found mysterious flat tires with nails or screws inserted in them. Since the only thing members in the group have in common is the Indian mascot controversy, why hasn't CARE (the group that supports the retention of the mascot) spoken out against these acts of violence that could have had tragic consequences, given that they are the most likely to be considered suspects in the vandalism? And why did Martin Millman warn that there were plainclothes police patrolling the parking lot at a recent board meeting, thus interfering with a criminal investigation, not to mention warning and protecting the perpetrator?

Members of STAND contact Native Americans by phone, fax, and email. Why does CARE call their newsletter "Smoke Signals," and feature a caricature of an Indian waving a blanket over a fire?

Why do they think that many school districts and colleges and universities such as Dartmouth, Cornell, Syracuse, Stanford and many more were able to give up a racially-stereotyped Indian mascot with no troubles, and why Onteora seems to be having so much difficulty?

Why won't Rose Ostrander just shut the hell up during board meetings, and stop this constant kibitzing and chatter that is even distracting board members? (Sorry, just had to get that one off my chest).

If Glenda McGee brings up her showing of pictures of the Onteora mascot at the St. Regis Mohawk reservation (she reports that all the people she showed them to approved of them), ask whether she brought the picture of Chief Reclining Skunk, or pictures of football fans dressed as Plains Indians. Ask her if she was raised to be polite to strangers, and whether that could have been the case here too. Ask why she thinks the Mohawk Nation of Chiefs should be disregarded for their letter to the Board of Education that praised the original decision to remove the sterotypical mascot? (this came up in a WAMC "Vox Pop" show public radio debate in September featuring Dennis Yerry and Charles Yow against Joe Doan and Glenda -- do you have access to a copy?)

Ask what Onteora means in the local Indian language (trick question, it is a made up word from the nineteenth century. They may tell you "place in the clouds," or somesuch).

Ask why if the National Educational Association specifically "deplores prejudice based on race,, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or gender and rejects the use of names. symbols, caricatures, emblems, logos and mascots that promote such prejudice," Indian mascot supporters keep on playing word games saying it is not a mascot, just a logo or symbol.

Ask mascot supporters if they think the mascot issue divides on religious lines. Note how many Methodist churches are in the district. Ask why mascot supporters and the clergy of their churches are going against the wishes of the national governing boards of United Methodist Church, the United Church of Christ, and the American Jewish Committee. Ask the clergy of these churches why they have not supported the policies of their national governing bodies, and why they have not actively worked to bring healing and understanding to the dialogue on this issue that has so divided the community. As far as I know, only one minister -- aside from myself (I'm Wiccan clergy, but we don't want to muddy the waters with this, do we? I hate the smell of burning witches) -- has come out publicly against the mascot.

Mom always said I asked a lot of questions.

Some other people you may want to interview, mostly out of district:

Commisioner of Education Richard Mills (was mentioned way back in March as being still in the midst of study on this issue. Rumor has it that he'll finally make a decision after the election, though at best we think it will be a toothless suggestion and not anything more emphatic. May be cowering and whimpering under his desk, bring fill- in lighting. Adrian Cole is his director of Native American section, but won't rock the boat. Albany based.

Officials of the NY State Board of Regents? (we haven't dragged them into this, we should)

Charles Yow (Massachusetts-based lawyer for the American Indian Movement [AIM] , who may at some point initiate a lawsuit against the district. A real sweetie. He has a great background piece on the practice of Indians becoming mascots in the Fifties, it would be useful for you to have that. (Tell him I said so). mediate@goldinc.com

Clare Daniels, Ulster Mediation (tried to get some mediation going on this, I don't think the mascot-huggers were real responsive)

Robert Eurich maxtotal@yahoo.com Has one of the most substantial websites on Indian mascots. May still live in the Port Jervis area. Gave the most succinct description of the controversy that I've seen yet recently: "I think you have to ask what makes one group of people think they have the right to make another group their mascot." http://earnestman.tripod.com/1indexpage.htm

Tom Rosato carar@ulster.net Lost election in the spring, running already for a seat next year. Intelligent, principled, and knowledgable. Quit chairmanship of crucial district committee in protest against current board policies.

Maureen Millar mmillar00@hotmail.com Former trustee, lost election in the spring. Also intelligent, principled, and knowledgable.

Tanya Washington, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division. Was investigating and negotiating the situation, negotiations broke down when the junta had a stealth vote on removing the anti-racism resolution two weeks before the previously announced date for the vote. She and her boss, Andrew Chelli, were real pissed when Fred Perry announced that the Attorney General's office was closing the investigation , since it wasn't true. Liar, liar, pants on fire. BAD Fred, no biscuit. tanya.washington@oag.state.ny.us

If I get a copy of the old KKK meeting poster that's been mentioned to me (Olive, in the thirties), I can let you know. National Alliance seems to be active in Ulster County as well. You should maybe talk to the ADL hate-crimes unit about this?

Go on, get interviews with the trustees. Tell them you want to be able to hear their side of the stories. You go, girl.

-- Anonymous, November 06, 2000


Moderation questions? read the FAQ