Topeka — School team names and mascots such as Braves, Redmen and Warriors are offensive to many American Indians and should be replaced, the State Board of Education was told Tuesday.
"Our people have the right to determine for ourselves what is religiously sacred and what is and is not an honor to our people," Dory Nason, Kansas State University Native American Student Body faculty adviser, said Tuesday.
"We are here to tell you that these images are hurtful and they don't represent who we believe ourselves to be," added Nason, a member of the Chippawa Tribe of Minnesota.
After Nason and three others made their case, Chairman I.B. "Sonny" Rundell noted the board can't order the state's 304 school districts to change mascot names.
Nason urged the board to pass a resolution stating Indian mascots are "unacceptable in an educational environment." Her group estimated there are 33 districts with schools using Indian nicknames and mascots.
As for what the board might do, Rundell said, "I don't think the board wants to make a public statement until it has more information."
Rundell said the matter will be discussed by the board's Equity Advisory Council at its Oct. 8 meeting. He sits on the council and said it could make a recommendation to the board.
"Their concerns need to be recognized," Rundell said. "We aren't just going to forget them."
In April, the school board in Hiawatha changed the high school's mascot from Redskins to Red Hawks, the middle school's from Warriors to Hawks and the grade school from Braves to Junior Hawks.
The board's action went against the wishes of the students who voted to leave the mascots unchanged and came amid much debate on both sides of the issue.
That same month, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights called for the end of Indian team names and mascots at non-Indian schools, colleges and universities.
Those critical of changing mascots say the number of American Indians offended by the nicknames has been exaggerated, and that the cost of new uniforms and equipment would make the change unfeasible.
Nason said it's difficult in the community to go against a mascot that has been around for decades.
She said Indian mascots often come from the image of a tribal warrior to give students a sense of pride and power.
"People's intentions might be good, but they are uninformed. What they believe is honoring us is totally based on their ideas and perceptions," Nason said.
Tamara Faw Faw-Goodson, a member of Otoe-Missouria Tribe in Oklahoma, said Indian children need to see new images of their people in schools.
"Native children are taught to be modest and humble and not make a spectacle of themselves as these mascots often do," she said. "It is because of this misuse of our cultural and religious symbols that these mascots dishonor us."