District stands by Shawnee Mission North’s Indian mascot after Lawrence High removes banner from school

Jay Senter - February 22, 2017 7:30 am
SM North's mascot is a Shawnee Indian in traditional garb.
SM North’s mascot is a Shawnee Indian in traditional garb.

The Shawnee Mission School District indicated this week it has no plans to consider changes to Shawnee Mission North’s Indian mascot after Lawrence High School removed a banner featuring the image from the school.

Lawrence administrators removed the banner from an array highlighting the members of the Sunflower League last week in response to complaints from students that were sparked by a post a member of the Lawrence girls basketball team made after traveling to SM North for a game Feb. 14. The student, a senior named Madison McKinney, said she found SM North’s use of native American culture insulting:

Madison_mcKinney_post

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You can find the post on Facebook here.

The Lawrence Journal-World reported that Lawrence’s Athletic Director Bill DeWitt told the school’s student newspaper The Budget that the decision to remove the SM North banner was a way to show the school’s students respect by being responsive to their concerns. The Budget article is available here.

Despite the controversy, the Shawnee Mission district’s administration says it would not be reviewing the use of the Indian mascot, and that it had taken steps in the past to get approval from the Shawnee tribe for continued use of the imagery. District Director of Communications Erin Little sent the following statement on the situation:

“The Shawnee Mission area and school district was named after the Shawnee Nation tribe. In 1992, the Shawnee Mission School District communicated directly with the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, and received written correspondence that the tribe was proud to lend its name and support to the education of America’s youth. They emphasized that the use of costumed youth as mascots was not offensive or degrading, but instead, a proud tradition that should continue. We are not planning to change the name of our school district, or high school mascots. In fact, we are proud of our native American heritage.”

Little indicated that the district had no plans to request that Lawrence put the banner back up, saying that Shawnee Mission teams are guests in Lawrence’s facilities when they travel there to play.

“This is their property, and their home,” Little wrote, “and we respect their opinion.”

SM North chooses new students every year to dress as the mascot for athletic events.
SM North chooses new students every year to dress as the mascot for athletic events.

INdians_Mascots_SMN

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the Lawrence High student newspaper story on the issue had been pulled from its website.

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