from the Meskwaki Nation to Iowa School Districts: More Native Mascots | News, Sports, Jobs

FILE PHOTO The Meskwaki Nation has joined with other tribal groups in calling for school districts in Iowa to remove the use of native-themed mascots and images.

On October 26, the Sac and Fox Tribe of Mississippi in Iowa – also known as the Meskwaki Nation – issued a joint letter with the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, the National Congress of American Indian and the American Indian Council calling 24 school districts in Iowa with native themed mascots to remove them permanently.

Near Tama County, the teams on this list include the Montezuma Braves, HLV Warriors, and Clarksville Indians, who compete in the Iowa Star Conference with the Meskwaki Settlement School.

The letter details the official position of the Meskwaki Nation as “Against the use of Native American words, images or symbols for sporting or other marketing purposes. “ Over the past year, the Meskwaki Nation has led efforts to encourage name changes in the Marion Independent School District and Camanche Community School District, and both have withdrawn their “Indians” mascots accordingly.

Linn County also made a similar change to the name of a county stream and park that previously used the term squaw, a derogatory word used against Native American women.

The park is now known as Wanatee Park and the creek as Wanatee Creek. Both were named in honor of the late Jean Adeline Morgan Wanatee, a member of the Meskwaki tribe who was a women’s rights activist, Meskwaki language scholar and renowned artist.

The recent Meskwaki Nation Joint Letter calls on school leaders to heed the collective appeal of tribal nations to include individuals seeking to retain stereotypical mascots.

“Indian Country’s will is clear – Native”theme“The mascots and the dehumanizing stereotypes they perpetuate must disappear” the letter reads. “Out of respect for tribal sovereignty, we ask that you listen to the voices of tribal leaders representing hundreds of tribal nations and the organizations that serve their citizens – and not the voices of a select few – as you seek to understand where it stands. the Indian country as a whole. this problem. “

Two other major school districts in Iowa, Indianola and Mason City, are currently in discussions about changing their mascots.

In Mason City, the Globe Gazette reported that the school board is close to a consensus in favor of removing their Mohawk mascot. In Indianola, however, the Des Moines Register reported that three new school board candidates who oppose the change in the Indian mascot were elected on Tuesday.

As the only Native American tribe recognized by the Iowa federal government, leaders of the Meskwaki Nation have requested that school districts involved in the mascot change process include them in the discussion.

“We invite you to enter into a dialogue with us so that you can learn more about contemporary nations and tribal peoples and why these mascots degrade us, distort who we are and reject the many important contributions we have made – and continue to do so. ‘bring – to this great land, “ the statement reads. “Further, please know that we are committed to working with you to expand and strengthen the curriculum your schools teach future generations of Iowans on Nations and Tribal Peoples, especially the undersigned Nations.”

A local perspective

Jonas Bear graduated in 2016 from Meskwaki Settlement School in Tama County. He is currently studying business at Haskell Indian Nations University in hopes of a career in the fitness and recreation industry.

Bear has spent his high school career playing several team sports with the Meskwaki Warriors.

He described how important it was to compete with a team that bears the name, colors of their tribe and a mascot that represents their people.

“You realize your team members aren’t just guys who have moved to town. They are your cousins ​​and neighbors. They are part of your tribe and are people who have experiences very similar to you ”, he said.

Bear believes that schools, especially those currently taking steps to remove Native-themed mascots, have a duty to reassess and improve the way children learn about Native Americans.

“I’ve heard so many stories of people saying, ‘We took a look at school at what happened to the Native Americans. The story is often, “We came, they lost, we won, this is our land now.” It is skimmed over in the history books. he said.

The recent movement to remove mascots at the professional and high school levels has been a step in the right direction, according to Bear, but the deeper problem of native erasure from American culture and history persists.

“I hope people realize that these are not mascots”, said Bear. “It’s not about football, basketball or any other sport. It is about us and our representation in society and in the world ”, he said. “Teach us, teach us about us. Empathize with the situation and understand why it’s so demeaning and demeaning when you use these mascots and try to tell us that you honor us, because it’s not honoring.

Within the Tama-Toledo community, past and present images have been controversial in and of themselves. The former Tama School District carried the Tamahawk mascot until a consolidation with Toledo in the 1960s, when the New Combined District became the Trojans of South Tama County.

The Trojans logo, which is still in use today and ubiquitous in the community, was a work of art created by Adolph Bear, a member of the Meskwaki tribe in the late 1960s, while a student at South Tama.

To this day, a large welcome sign depicts a Native American wearing a war bonnet at the southern entrance to Tama, and a similar image has been mounted on a sign along Business Highway 30 advertising the former King Restaurant. Tower. The sign was recently renovated and drew criticism from some members of the Meskwaki community when the Tama News-Herald announced that it had been relocated.

Yolanda Pushetonequa is a member of the Meskwaki tribe who attended South Tama County Primary and Secondary School and is now a parent of a pre-kindergarten girl at Meskwaki Settlement School.

Pushetonequa, who was recently elected to the Meskwaki Tribal Council, spoke to the News-Chronicle about her personal experiences and opinions and not on behalf of the Tribal Council.

“Our Indigenous staff at the school (Meskwaki Settlement School) is huge. “ she said. “I can only imagine what it was like to have an Aboriginal teacher. My daughter lives in a time when she will see so many indigenous adults and youth fill all of their classrooms, and they can be themselves and feel their experience is normal.

Pushetonequa is encouraged by the recent changes and activism that have driven the mascot retreat movement as well as the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women campaign and Secretary Deb Haaland’s recent efforts to investigate residential school sites across the country.

“We are just in a stage of liberation from much of this oppression by these social movements, and they are all helping each other” Pushetonequa said. “We are in a time where we re-evaluate the big picture around imagery – the places from which certain images were derived and the reasons why they appeared. “

She then focused on a specific local issue mentioned above.

“This is where you see pictures like the sign in front of the King Tower Cafe. I doubt that a tribal group was involved in the construction of this sign. It’s a relic of a time in American history, in Tama County history, where that imagery was correct, and that was a selling point, Pushetonequa said. “They were okay with that at the time, and it’s good that they made that choice for themselves. And it’s good that we are in a time where we are making new choices and learning from our past actions. “

Bear and Pushetonequa both admitted that they didn’t always recognize Indigenous themed mascots as a significant issue, but as they matured and saw some of the more egregious examples, they changed their minds.

“Obviously you want to listen to people who say they are in pain. So things like the tomahawk chop and the image of Chef Wahoo come to mind. There has never been a time that I was not disgusted by Chef Wahoo. Even children know how sick it is. It is just reprehensible that adult American adults even defend this and ignore it when indigenous youth ask to please stop ”, Pushetonequa said. “These teams and communities and their leaders who always have Aboriginal themed mascots in place, that says a lot about them, where they are at and who they are as people. I love to see quick action for change being taken, and it’s disturbing when people fight against that. It’s the biggest victory in the world when they finally reconcile and let go. And letting go of a mascot is nothing compared to what the indigenous people have experienced in this country. We are still living this and are still paying the price for colonialism and the actions of those ancestors. We pay the price with our lives, our health and our bodies.

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