ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — Now that the Native American school mascot ban has been made official by the Board of Regents, over 100 schools across New York will need to change their school mascots or team name. “Our identity is being used predominantly by non-Native people for their amusement and entertainment and oftentimes it’s just terribly inaccurate,” said John Kane, Native activist and NYSED Indigenous Mascot Advisory Council member.
Kane said the goal for schools across the state is to come up with an action plan by the end of this school year and actually eliminate any Native American mascots or team names by the end of next school year. When the directive was first issued, some schools challenged it, which is why Kane said the mandate is necessary. “Between you and me, I think there were schools that were, hoping that this would come… because it becomes very tumultuous, and there’s a lot of anger that gets expressed between the people who say ‘Yeah it’s time that we got rid of the mascot’ and the people that say ‘No dammit I’m gonna be an Indian for the rest of my life,’ or whatever their mascot is.”
Kane said the council will be a part of the rebranding process and if schools don’t comply, the education department could pull back on funding. “That’s not something that NYSED wants to do, so I think going forward what’s gonna be interesting is to see how NYSED does work with some of the schools who may not want to comply with this ban now, and what’s that negotiation are gonna…look like,” said Kane. Some have said if the mascots are removed, the history and knowledge of Native Americans would also be removed, which Kane says is absurd. “And I would argue that being used as a mascot is more of an erasure, than, removing the mascot, because they are misrepresentations, they are false stereotypes, they’re all 18th century depictions. So that means we’re automatically being cast as relics of the past, that we aren’t a living, breathing, existing contemporary people,” explained Kane.
The name change would be a financial matter, with schools needing to change out gymnasium floors, school attire, and more. At a press conference on Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said there’s been no discussion about including this in the budget.