• 54°

Letter to the Editor: Group responds to Dare Board of Education’s decision to keep Manteo mascots

To the Editor:

The Change the Manteo Mascots Initiative, a group of residents and alumni, issues the following statement in response to the October 13, 2020 Dare County Board of Education decision to endorse the “Redskins” and “Braves” mascots of MHS and MMS.

GIVEN THE FOLLOWING FACTS:

I. The Roanoke-Hatteras Tribal Council, of the Algonquian Indians of N.C., the descendants of the Croatan people, the people mascot-supporters state they wish to “honor,” released a statement on June 26, 2020 declaring their firm opposition to the MHS mascot.

II. On July 15, 2020, the Dare Minority Coalition issued a statement in support of retiring the Native mascots.

III. On September 8, 2020, Gregory Richardson, the Executive Director of the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs, and an enrolled member of the Haliwa-Saponi Indian Tribe, issued a letter to the Dare County Board of Education stating, “The North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs strongly encourages the Dare County Board of Education to retire all existing American Indian mascots, logos, and sports teams nicknames being utilized by the Dare County public school system.”

IV. “Redskin” is a dictionary-defined racial slur. Furthermore, civil rights organizations, including the NAACP, the Urban League, and the United States Commission on Civil Rights, recognize this as a cause in the fight against discrimination and racial stereotyping and have called for an end to the use of Native American images and team names by non-Native schools.

V. The NFL Washington Football team discontinued the use of the same “Redskins” name and logo on July 13, 2020 in response to mounting pressure from years and years of protests, financial pressure from sponsors, and the demands of over 1,500 Native tribes, organizations, and individuals in a July 6, 2020 open letter to the commissioner of the NFL.

VI. The National Congress of American Indians, the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization, has run a campaign against the use of Native mascots since 1968, as they are dehumanizing and perpetuate harmful stereotypes. Furthermore, they have a database of every school in the U.S. that is currently using a Native mascot, and they are monitoring school board decisions.

VII. On October 31, 2002, nearly 18 years ago, the NC State Board of Education issued a memorandum per the research shared in a presentation to the Board by the State Advisory Council on Indian Education. The memorandum stated: 1. The State Board of Education encourages all educators to inform themselves of the curricular, psychological, and educational effects of using American Indian Sports Mascots and logos, and 2. The State Board of Education requires local education agencies to report annually on their actions taken to review their policies and procedures toward using these mascots. This memorandum is public record.

VIII. On March 25, 2003, in a letter to the Senior Assistant to the State Superintendent concerning the memorandum, the then Dare County Schools Superintendent, Dr. Sue Burgess, outlined a plan to educate administrators and educators on the research concerning the discriminatory practices inherent in Native mascots, and the plan to discontinue the MES, MMS, and MHS mascots once the new high school, then called Wright Brothers High School, was opened. Over 17 years later, this has not been done. We have this letter on file.

IX. Over twenty years of peer-reviewed social science research shows that there are no positive outcomes of Native mascots for Native students or people. They not only harm them psychologically but show them the limited ways in which non-indigenous people view them and stereotype them. Furthermore, they harm non-native students and community members by limiting their perceptions of both the history and present of Indigenous people and encouraging racial stereotyping.

X. An oft-cited poll conducted by the Washington Post stating that Native Americans did not find the “Redskin” moniker offensive has been unequivocally refuted as using unscientific methods. They did not have a large enough polling pool and did not question whether people were actively engaged in Native cultural practices and Native American community, or whether or not they merely had ‘ancestry’, which is fundamentally not the same as being an Indigenous person.

XI. This is not the first time a mascot change initiative has been put forward in Manteo, nor will it be the last.

XII. The argument to retain the use of the mascots of the “Braves” and “Redskins” has only been supported with emotion and opinion.

IN RESPONSE TO THE OPPOSITION’S MESSAGING, WE MAKE THE FOLLOWING OBSERVATIONS:

I. In dialogue about the mascots honoring our local history, specifically Chief Manteo, members of the community and the Board of Education regularly conflate the “Redskins” with Chief Manteo. The word “Redskins” and the name and person of Chief Manteo are not the same. Additionally, the existence of the mascot and its history is not the same thing as the history of Indigenous people on the Outer Banks. Discontinuing the one does not erase the other.

II. In arguing for the mascots, members of the community and the Board of Education are also conflating the story of the ‘Lost’ Colony with the entirety of Indigenous history in this area. The story of Native people on the Outer Banks did not begin there, and it does not end there. Native people are still here, and we should listen to them.

III. The concept of “honoring” someone or something implies that they need you to do that for them, and it further perpetuates the misconception that Native people only exist in the past. They are still here. They can and do speak for themselves. The Dare County Board of Education did not listen.

IN FULL KNOWLEDGE OF THE FOREGOING:

On October 13th, 2020, the day after Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and the month before Native American Heritage Month, The Dare County Board of Education, an institution seemingly in support of disseminating facts and fostering an environment of non-discrimination, decided to ignore wisdom, racial justice, research, and the will of the Roanoke-Hatteras Tribe, who still exist, along with hundreds and hundreds of other Native tribes every day of the year.

If you are a citizen of Dare County and this fact upsets you, remember that the Board is made up of elected officials, some of whom will be up for re-election and on the ballot November 3rd. Also, if you are interested in driving this issue forward, please contact us at changemanteomascots@gmail.com.

The Change the Manteo Mascots Initiative

FOR MORE COLUMNS AND LETTERS TO THE EDITOR, CHECK OUT OUR OPINION SECTION HERE.