SMN Mascot plans to retire during 2020-21 school year

Mascot Policy ACA changes the standards for racially based school mascots

A sign hung at the Center for Academic Achievement during the Jan. 25 meeting reads: “We are people not your mascots”.

Anna Miesner, Writer and Editor

What started with a petition in July 2020, North parents, alumni, students and community members have all pushed for the retirement of SM North’s mascot. Support and awareness grew as these independent members came together in groups such as the SMN Community Against Cultural Appropriation. 

Despite their efforts through public meetings, speeches at school board meetings and tireless other efforts, it wasn’t until Jan. 25 that a unanimous vote by the school Board of Education approved the new board mascot policy, North will be retiring their mascot the “Indians” and starting the process of finding a new mascot.

This decision to retire North’s mascot is included in a clause of the Policy ADA  which states that: 

“If the board determines that a school mascot fails to comply with this policy, then the mascot will be retired and a new mascot for the school will be selected through a process approved by the superintendent” 

The day after the decision, Principal Jeremy Higgins sent an email to students, parents and staff that showed the district-approved Mascot Redesign Process Timeline to retire the mascot and adopt a new one. 

“We look forward to engaging our students and community and determining a mascot that each and every one of us can be proud of and supportive of,” Higgins said. “One that will carry us through our next 100 years as a school.” 

As the timeline shows, the new mascot won’t be officially retired until June 2021. However, completely removing the mascot from the building is predicted to happen towards the end of the 2021-22 school year. 

The name of the new mascot is predicted to be announced in April or May of 2021, and full implementation of the new mascot is projected for August 2022.

The plan outlines that the student, parent, and other community members will be able to participate in creating the new mascot through a survey. 

Former Alumni Amy Hastings started a petition in July of 2020 to change SM North’s mascot before the school’s 100 year anniversary. 

Hastings and many other Shawnee Community members, such as alumni Kay Heley are involved in the SMN Community Against Cultural Appropriation, a group pushing for the retirement of North’s mascot. 

“I first heard of the SMN Community Against Cultural Appropriation group this past summer,” Heley said. “What got my attention then was the news that the Native group permitting the mascot was a group in Oklahoma and that they had rescinded their permission and had done so some years ago.  It was now time to work with our elected school board members to urge a policy to disallow Native mascots and references that were not positive images of Native people.” 

Heley graduated from North in 1974, her son also later graduated from North in 2007.

“Having my son graduate from North in 2007 brought up the discomfort I had felt as a student at North in 1974,” Heley said. “As a high school student who was not an activist at the time, I was still uncomfortable with the Indian mascot, the Indian princess and the ‘ceremony’ before games.” 

In 2017, changes were made to the pregame ceremonies. The district decided to cease the pregame ceremony that involved students dressing up as Native Americans, at the time they did not make any changes to the mascot. 

Not every member of the community seemed to share this opinion, Alumni Emmit Moslow started a counter-petition in support of keeping North’s mascot. 

Moscow shared his concerns about representation at the Jan. 25 board meeting. 

“I know what we lose if we remove those names and images, a seat at the table,” Moscow said. “What is happening today is a modern-day Manifest Destiny trying to wipe out Indians from our social landscape. I ask you to educate not eradicate” 

Heley argues that the SMN Community Against Cultural Appropriation advocates for the education of indigenous history. 

“Indigenous history and culture continue to be largely ignored by our curriculum which is the most important thing our schools can do to honor Native people and reduce discrimination,” Heley said. “Mascots in no way, in my opinion, honor culture and tradition.” 

The mascot’s retirement has received growing attention, one, in particular, being sixth-grader Halley from BlueJacket-Flint Elementary. Halley Ya-Hua sent letters to the BOE against the use of Native American mascots. 

“I had packets that I gave out and I did that every time there was a meeting,” Halley said.

Halley’s mother, Alisha Vincent is a former North alumnus who graduated in 1978 and member of the SMN Community Against Cultural Appropriation. 

Halley would often attend school board meetings with her mom and pass out informational pamphlets with details of the impacts of Native American mascots. 

 “One thing that we were really trying to work on was having an ethnic studies course requirement for every high school in the district,” Halley said. 

Halley and her mother would often attend meetings at Standing Rock Indian Reservation, which inspired Halley to start off a letter-writing campaign to gather testimonials and opinions from other local sources. 

“I started this letter-writing campaign and I got back letters from college professors and authors,” Halley said.  

With her mother’s help as the cameraman, Hally created educational videos that explain Kansas’ Native American history, details that were discussed at the meetings at Standing Rock. 

“At Standing Rock, I would notice there were not a lot of reporters there so I would start making videos,” Halley said. “I’ve always liked making videos, I think they’re a fun way to get some information out.” 

When originally signing the petition, Alisha believed that North alumni needed to take even more actions towards

“All of these people [have] stepped up independent of each other meaning that they did not know each other when they started to speak up about these issues,” Alisha said. “It was partly a coincidence and partly that we had all signed an online petition that we thought needed to be more than just a simple online petition.” 

Alisha only recently joined the SMN Community Against Cultural Appropriation and has had earlier connections with many Native tribes in the United States through meetings such as the ones she attends at the Standing Rock. 

“The majority of our alumni group have from day one pushed for a Native studies course to be added to the high schools as well as to get rid of things other than just the sports mascot,” Alisha said. “Now that I have children and their father is a Native, I feel completely shocked by some of the things that I didn’t even notice were part of our culture at the time.” 

North’s timeline pushes closer to its mascot’s retirement at the end of the 2020-2021 school year, and on Feb. 5, North started their mascot application process with a community application

On March 5, mascot applications will be due at 3 p.m. and will be reviewed the following day.

Jan. 25 Board Meeting Link

Policy ADA

Mascot Redesign Process Timeline




community application

Halley’s Video