The Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma’s business council on Wednesday approved a resolution formally rescinding the permission tribal leaders granted in 1992 for Shawnee Mission North’s use of the Indian as a mascot.
One member of the business council was absent from the meeting to attend a conference. The other four members all voted in favor of rescinding the permission. The tribe indicated two weeks ago it was planning to make the move.
Chief Glenna Wallace said she had received a great deal of correspondence from Shawnee Mission North graduates and current students in the wake of Lawrence High School’s removal of a banner featuring the mascot from outside its gym. Many, she said, indicated that they “are in favor of changing the mascot. There have been several people who said they have approached the school about [changing the mascot], and nothing has been done.”
Others have lobbied the tribe for continued use of the mascot.
“Some have been respectful,” she said. “Some have not. But that’s okay. I expect that.”
Wallace said that no one from the Shawnee Mission School District’s administration had reached out to the tribe to discuss the controversy since it broke last month. The district explicitly referenced the 1992 resolution it had received from the tribe in a statement it put out on the issue in February.
Wallace said her priority as chief — she was elected to the office in 2006 — has been to secure funding for education and jobs training for members of the tribe.
“The priorities for us definitely aren’t to picket or emphasize mascots,” she said. “But this is our culture and it is important.”
The tribe had several concerns with the current implementation of the SM North mascot program. Wallace said the tribe finds the use of the term “costume” for the clothing the mascots wear inappropriate.
“We always tell our members that when they wear traditional clothing they are in regalia, not a costume,” she said.
Regardless, the clothing worn by the mascots is not authentic to the Shawnee lineage, Wallace said. The imagery used throughout SM North for its Indian mascot is representative of plains tribes, not woodland tribes like the Shawnee.
Asked if the tribe would be comfortable with the use of the Indian mascot if the district offered to update the imagery to reflect true Shawnee culture, Wallace said it was very unlikely.
“It’s simply time,” she said. “It’s just time to move on. In the beginning, I’m sure they intended it to be an honor. But when the people that are supposed to feel honored feel disrespected, is it really an honor?”