The current chief of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma says that the Shawnee Mission North mascot does not accurately reflect the tribe’s culture, and that the tribe’s business council is planning to rescind a resolution issued in 1992 granting the district its permission to use the Indian mascot.
Glenna Wallace, who was elected chief of the tribe in 2006, was first contacted about the controversy surrounding the Indian mascot by student journalists from Lawrence High School’s newspaper, the Budget, earlier this week. After learning about Lawrence High’s decision to remove a banner featuring the SM North Indian mascot from outside its gym, Wallace’s office retrieved a copy of the correspondence between the tribe’s business council and the school district from 1992. The district sent a letter at that time seeking permission to continue the use of the Indian mascot, a fixture of the school for decades at that point. Wallace confirmed that the tribe’s chief and business manager at the time had signed a resolution granting permission in response to the district’s request.
“I believe with all my heart that everything was well intentioned, and I give them great credit for writing to ask for permission — it is revered in our culture to ask for permission, and the letter was most respectful,” Wallace said. “Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, even with all of that good intention, some other things crept in.”
Wallace said that the business council’s review Wednesday of the materials online related to the current situation had caused significant concern. Video that appeared to show SM North students doing the tomahawk chop cheer in the stands “cannot be overlooked or condoned,” she said. Moreover, the mascot imagery does not portray the culture of the Shawnee, who came to Kansas after being forced to leave their home in the woodlands of Ohio in the 1800s.
“The image is not of a woodlands Indian,” Wallace said. “It is of a plains Indian. And while I have all the respect in the world for the plains Indians, they are not woodlands Indians.”
Wallace said that based on the discussion of the tribe’s business council last night, she believed there would be a resolution on the agenda of its next meeting, which will be held March 8, to rescind the permission given in 1992.
“We do it with a sense that we’re sorry that any of this has happened,” she said. “But our culture is very important to us…We’re not casting blame on anyone. But we need to be more sensitive as a nation.”
This week, Lawrence High School replaced all of the banners featuring the members of the Sunflower League with versions that list only the name of the school, and not the school’s mascot.