Week of April 8

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News, views and pikachus.

-- Anonymous, April 08, 2001


April 8 Freeman article (Tobe's link at end of last week's page)

"Onteora may keep 'Indian'" by William Kemble

BOICEVILLE - Supporters of the Onteora school district Indian mascot are ready to cease use of the high school team symbol if the federal government comes down with an advisory opinion against continuing the tradition. Mascot supporter Rose Ostrander said that the advice given by state Education Commissioner Richard Mills is not enough to change the 50- year-old nickname.

"Unless something is done on a federal level, the Onteora Indian will remain," she said.

"It has to be across the board, not just a few schools here and there," Ostrander said. "I want to see it done away with everywhere, not just in certain places that don't have the energy to fight to keep their symbols."

Parent Glenda McGee has also expressed strong sentiments about keeping the Indian nickname.

"Dr. Mills has fallen into this conformist, gutless trap, when in fact so many individual Indian people ... are proud and happy to have this symbol," Glenda McGee said. "He cited organizations, people who form together because they are part of this victim mentality as opposed to a mentality of pride."

The response of defiance comes after Mills said in a letter to all state public schools that use of Native American symbols or depictions "can become a barrier to building a safe and nurturing school community and improving academic achievement for all students."

Trustee voted 4-3 in January 2000 to have the Onteora High School team nickname discontinued, with the measure to have been effective beginning this academic year. But a new board overturned the measure before it was put in place.

While agreeing that there is no intention by many mascot supporters to harm people, Mills disagrees with the conclusion that a majority of Indians favor the use of images and symbols.

"Most Native Americans appear to find the portrayal by others of their treasured cultural and religious symbols disparaging and disrespectful," he wrote.

While not setting a timeline, Mills requested "boards to end the use of Native American mascots as soon as practical."

Mills recognized that "some communities have thought about this and are ready to act." He continued, "Others already have acted and I commend them. Yet, in others, more reflection and listening is needed, and so I ask that these discussions begin now."

Onteora school board President Martin Millman, who has favored keeping the Indian nickname, agreed that additional listening could take place in the district if a state Education Department representative was willing to come to the district. He said there are no immediate plans to have the issue placed on a future agenda.

"The part that I read was this was an urging, a recommendation, but not an imposition of demand at this point," said Millman, adding the commissioner should "come down and sit in our boots" before forcing the issue further.

However, opponents of an Indian mascot anticipate using the advisory opinion to push the question back to the board. Local activist group Community One Love One Race has recently found nationwide support from groups attending a United Church of Christ conference in Cleveland last week.

"It was on 'Racism and Contemporary Genocide' and there was quite a contingent of Native Americans there," said spokeswoman Lucia Ferrante, who submitted a petition from representatives from the conference asking that Onteora cease use of the nickname.

"Last year, Martin Millman challenged us to do more than just bring the fight to them, so that's exactly what we're doing," she said.

"The conference coincided with the opening of the Cleveland Indians baseball season and we protested the use of the name outside of the stadium," Ferrante said. "I think this letter and the support we're getting nationwide is eventually going to make the difference."

Among the people cheering the state opinion is parent Dennis Yerry, who three years ago initiated discussions about removing the Indian as a nickname.

"I don't expect that the present board is going to change the mascot based on this letter," he said.

"I do think this is a step in the right direction," Yerry said. "It would have been nice if it went further and directed the schools to change their name because (this) would avoid a lot of the political problems that happened here."

-- Anonymous, April 08, 2001

Take a look at that April 8 link, and read the online Freeman letters. I think of Glenda as being wacky, but can you believe that she responded like that in the online letters?!

-- Anonymous, April 09, 2001

I saw it...wild one. t.

-- Anonymous, April 10, 2001

the hits keep rolling Thursday, April 12, 2001 Afton schools say good-bye to Indian mascot Board voted unanimously BY JIM WRIGHT Staff Writer

AFTON -- The Afton Indian, a mascot that has accompanied a number of girls softball teams to state championships, will soon be only a memory. But that won't happen quite as quickly as many thought it might.

School district Superintendent Vernice Church, acting on the suggestion of state Education Commissioner Richard P. Mills, suggested Wednesday that the Indian mascot and logo be eliminated.

A unanimous school board vote did away with the mascot, but not until after this school year ends.

The five-member board of education questioned whether the action had to be immediate. Church said Mills' letter allowed some room and noted some communities would not resolve such a controversial issue overnight.

Board members have had no complaints over the mascot, but Church said she had received objections.

"We don't have to drop it tonight," said board member William Latham. "We could finish the year out and get started with forming a committee to have a new mascot and logo ready to go by September."

"We can't set that kind of a time line on any committee," replied board President Margery Secrest.

After considerable discussion, the board agreed to eliminate the mascot and logo at the end of the present school year and form a committee to select a new mascot and logo


-- Anonymous, April 13, 2001

Commission on Civil Rights votes 5-2 to get rid of mascots..more details available tomorrow. Tobe

-- Anonymous, April 13, 2001

Recommendation passed on April 13, 2001

The United States Commission on Civil Rights Commission Statement on the Use of Native American Images and Nicknames as Sports Symbols

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights calls for an end to the use of Native American images and team names by non-Native schools. The Commission deeply respects the right of all Americans to freedom of expression under the First Amendment and in no way would attempt to prescribe how people can express themselves. However, the Commission believes that the use of Native American images and nicknames in schools is insensitive and should be avoided.

In addition, some Native American and civil rights advocates maintain that these mascots may violate anti-discrimination laws. These references, whether mascots and their performances, logos, or names, are disrespectful and offensive to American Indians and others who are offended by such stereotyping. They are particularly inappropriate and insensitive in light of the long history of forced assimilation that American Indian people have endured in this country. Since the civil rights movement of the 1960s many overtly derogatory symbols and images offensive to African-Americans have been eliminated.

However, many secondary schools, post-secondary institutions, and a number of professional sports teams continue to use Native American nicknames and imagery. Since the 1970s, American Indians leaders and organizations have vigorously voiced their opposition to these mascots and team names because they mock and trivialize Native American religion and culture.

It is particularly disturbing that Native American references are still to be found in educational institutions, whether elementary, secondary or post-secondary. Schools are places where diverse groups of people come together to learn not only the "Three Rs," but also how to interact respectfully with people from different cultures. The use of stereotypical images of Native Americans by educational institutions has the potential to create a racially hostile educational environment that may be intimidating to Indian students. American Indians have the lowest high school graduation rates in the nation and even lower college attendance and graduation rates. The perpetuation of harmful stereotypes may exacerbate these problems.

The stereotyping of any racial, ethnic, religious or other groups when promoted by our public educational institutions, teach all students that stereotyping of minority groups is acceptable, a dangerous lesson in a diverse society. Schools have a responsibility to educate their students; they should not use their influence to perpetuate misrepresentations of any culture or people. Children at the elementary and secondary levels usually have no choice about which school they attend. Further, the assumption that a college student may freely choose another educational institution if she feels uncomfortable around Indian-based imagery is a false one. Many factors, from educational programs to financial aid to proximity to home, limit a college student's choices. It is particularly onerous if the student must also consider whether or not the institution is maintaining a racially hostile environment for Indian students.

Schools that continue the use of Indian imagery and references claim that their use stimulates interest in Native American culture and honors Native Americans. These institutions have simply failed to listen to the Native groups, religious leaders, and civil rights organizations that oppose these symbols. These Indian-based symbols and team names are not accurate representations of Native Americans. Even those that purport to be positive are romantic stereotypes that give a distorted view of the past. These false portrayals prevent non-Native Americans from understanding the true historical and cultural experiences of American Indians. Sadly, they also encourage biases and prejudices that have a negative effect on contemporary Indian people. These references may encourage interest in mythical "Indians" created by the dominant culture, but they block genuine understanding of contemporary Native people as fellow Americans.

The Commission assumes that when Indian imagery was first adopted for sports mascots it was not to offend Native Americans. However, the use of the imagery and traditions, no matter how popular, should end when they are offensive. We applaud those who have been leading the fight to educate the public and the institutions that have voluntarily discontinued the use of insulting mascots. Dialogue and education are the roads to understanding. The use of American Indian mascots is not a trivial matter. The Commission has a firm understanding of the problems of poverty, education, housing, and health care that face many Native Americans. The fight to eliminate Indian nicknames and images in sports is only one front of the larger battle to eliminate obstacles that confront American Indians. The elimination of Native American nicknames and images as sports mascots will benefit not only Native Americans, but all Americans. The elimination of stereotypes will make room for education about real Indian people, current Native American issues, and the rich variety of American Indians in our country. >From the NCRSM website

-- Anonymous, April 13, 2001

Now that the vote is over, it is now safe to discuss some matters that were previously not discussable. The single motivating factor generating interest in native based mascots and their effects by the Commission was Onteora. For some time we have had a number of lengthy situations, importantly the Onteora fact pattern was considered the worst possible situation and was at first considered too bizarre to be true. When it was determined the recounting was exact the Commission decided to look into the issue with greater interest.

Charles Yow

-- Anonymous, April 13, 2001

Wow. It is gratifying to see both the NYS Dept of Ed and US Com on C.R. issuing these statements. The statements themselves are beautifully-written summaries of all the points to be made on this matter (all the things that have been said at Onteora's public be heard as well). But this statement does not tie mascots to federal funding, right?

-- Anonymous, April 14, 2001

Hooray!! This is a strong and clear statement. And our own Onteora nonsense was the motivator!! Amazing how things can work out.

Of course, the bad guys will rev up the mascot issue for the election, and it remains to be seen how much this may cost us in votes. But it's a year later, and I know that I'm not the only person who's learned a lot.....

-- Anonymous, April 14, 2001

That's fascinating that Onteora was the pivotal situation here. Shall we keep all parties updated with the Freeman etc articles on Onteora responses? Today's Freeman had an illuminating quote from Kemosabe Millman on how the holdouts will be "circling the wagons." Interesting choice of metaphor he used... But yes, this is so bizarre and baroque, when I tell about all the strange things that have gone on with this people just find it unbelievable.

"No more Indian nicknames at schools, civil rights panel urges" by William Kemble

THE U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on Friday urged schools to stop using Indian team names and mascots, saying the practice may violate anti-discrimination laws. The use of Indian names and images by non-Indian schools could be viewed as "disrespectful and offensive" by Indian groups and can create "a racially hostile educational environment that may be intimidating to Indian students," the commission said.

The commission's recommendation -which comes only a week after New York Education Commissioner Richard Mills issued a similar opinion - is sure to return the issue to the front burner in the Onteora school district in Ulster County. The Onteora school board agreed in early 2000 to stop using the name Indians for its student sports teams, but a new board elected in the spring of 2000 overturned that decision.

"I think that the (state education) commissioner's letter and this action by the U.S. Commission (on Civil Rights) are strong statements that this is an issue that reaches far beyond local boundaries," Onteora Superintendent Hal Rowe said Friday.

Rowe expects to address the topic during the Onteora school board's next meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday.

The recommendation by the Commission on Civil Rights, which was approved in a 6-2 vote, does not carry the weight of law, but "advisory opinions are wake-up calls that urge local people to take another look at it and seek other ways to reconsider what they are doing," Rowe said.

Rowe also saw the handwriting on the wall in Mills' letter to school officials across the state last week. which indicated that progress toward eliminating Indian references in New York will be evaluated in a year. "I think that pretty much sends a message that says 'We're moving toward it, and before we do anything that's on the scale of a mandate, we want to give them an opportunity to try and understand the issue,'" Rowe said.

Onteora school board President Martin Millman, who favors the continued use of Indian nicknames and images in the district, said the board may have to change its position if threatened with the loss of government funding.

"We'd have to rethink our position and look to resolve the issue in another manner," he said.

"There is some concern that federal funding is going to be withheld from our school district," he said. "Basically, they might want to use that as leverage over us ... but I don't think it's time, yet. From what I'm hearing ... 110 schools in the state are ready to circle the wagons and defend this on another level."

School boards in two districts in New York - Penfield and Afton - voted within days of receiving Mills' opinion to drop their Indian- related nicknames. Afton teams have been called simply Indians; Penfield has been using Chiefs.

Teams in the Rhinebeck school district, in Dutchess County, and the Coxsackie-Athens school district, in Greene County, also are called Indians, but there has been virtually no controversy or public debate about the issue in either district.

Rowe did not know whether state or federal funding would be at risk in districts that defy the new recommendations. He said Onteora received $764,805 in federal grants and aid during the 1999-2000 academic year.

"I think that everybody assumes there is some connection, but that has not been specifically evaluated," Rowe said.

U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Commission Chairwoman Mary Frances Berry said Friday's recommendation against the use of Indian references should serve to "encourage people not to do it and point out what problems it creates" for people who consider such references "an offense to a culture and ... degrading."

"Our state advisory committees can follow up by holding forums in various communities to come out and talk about the issues," Berry said. "Mainly what we can do is say this is our best judgment and our best advice, and that's what we wish people to do ... but we cannot force anybody to do anything."

Berry echoed the opinions of Mills and state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer that the use of Indian names and images by non-Indian schools "may violate federal civil rights laws," including provisions that "all people are entitled to 'full and equal enjoyment' in places of public accommodation."

Millman said the Indian controversy has been divisive in Onteora, and he fears the return of the issue to the district's agenda could reopen old wounds.

"My son had ... a teacher for two years and she brought out the best in this kid," Millman said. "Now she and (her husband) won't talk to me because I took a different opinion on this Indian issue. ... So I'm not looking forward to this coming back again."

-- Anonymous, April 14, 2001

Everything considered, should we delay OCR's conclusion until after May 16? If we do not there is a good chance the final concllusion will be releasted during the first week of May.

As most know we are holding off wiling suit until this date due to concern that filing suit would adversly effect the outcome of the election.

Charles Yow mediate@goldinc.com

-- Anonymous, April 14, 2001

I will use spellcheck in the future.

Charles Yow mediate@goldinc.com

-- Anonymous, April 14, 2001

Charles: Do we know what OCR's opinion is liklely to be? I think it's probably best if it can be held off until after the elction, but I wonder how much control we have over the timing of the release of their findings? Tobe

-- Anonymous, April 15, 2001

Charles: If we can choose, it would be better to wait till after the election, only a short month from now. I'm confident that Meg will win, but it's gonna be hard to beat that f-g liar: so let's continue to low key the mascot issue untill after.... sadly, it might take another year to swing it.....

-- Anonymous, April 15, 2001

I agree, will work on it Monday so nothing is done until after May 16.


-- Anonymous, April 15, 2001

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