Following the controversy this week surrounding Lawrence High School’s removal of a banner featuring the SM North Indian mascot, the district issued a statement Friday suggesting that it would look to address the concerns raised by the issue “in a responsible and respectful manner.” The full statement sent by district Director of Communications Erin Little is below:
In the Shawnee Mission School District, every student’s voice matters. We have heard the concerns around this topic, and we want to respond in a responsible and respectful manner. It is not, and never has been our intent to offend anyone. We have a longstanding history with Native American heritage that runs deep throughout our district. We respect and understand the diversities of our communities, and we look forward to learning from this matter, and growing as an organization in a positive way.
On Thursday, the leader of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma said the tribe had been made aware of the controversy after being contacted by students from Lawrence High School, and were uncomfortable with certain parts of the school’s use of Indian imagery. Chief Glenna Wallace said the tribe’s business council intended to issue a resolution rescinding the permission leaders had granted the district in 1992 to use the Indian as a mascot.
The Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma represents the lineage of the band of Shawnee who were forced from Ohio to northeast Kansas following the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Once in Kansas, many of the relocated Shawnee attended classes at the Shawnee Indian Mission, founded in what is present-day Fairway in 1839 by missionary Thomas Johnson, a southern native and slaveholder who was sent to Kansas by the Methodist church. Children from other native American tribes attended school at the facility as well. In the mid-1850s, a move by the United States government to reduce the size of land granted to the Shawnee in Kansas combined with threats made to their people by white settlers in the lead up to the Civil War era forced another Shawnee migration. By the end of the 1860s, the majority of the Shawnee who had been living in northeast Johnson County had moved south to land controlled by the Cherokee in northeast Oklahoma.
The district did not directly address an inquiry about whether it would consider changing the SM North mascot if the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma does formally rescind the permission it gave 25 years ago.