District considering next moves after tribe rescinds permission for use of Indian mascot, but no timetable in place

Jay Senter - March 17, 2017 8:43 am
The Shawnee Mission School District is having internal conversations about the best way to handle the future of the Indian mascot at SM North.
The Shawnee Mission School District is having internal conversations about the best way to handle the future of the Indian mascot at SM North.

Shawnee Mission School District Superintendent Jim Hinson on Thursday said there are “groups” in the district talking about how to proceed in the wake of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma’s move this month to rescind permission tribal leaders had given in 1992 for the continued use of the Indian mascot at Shawnee Mission North.

“We’re not going to bury our head in the sand, but we’re having additional conversation about what should we do with a mascot that’s been in place for 95 years,” Hinson said in a meeting with reporters. “We’re really talking about it. Customs, what are we doing at ballgames and activities. Are there things we are doing that are culturally insensitive? Again, we’re not going to make a rash decision , but we’re having very thoughtful conversations and there are groups in the district that are talking about it.”

Hinson said neither he nor SM North building administrators had established a time frame to make a decision on the issue.

After Hinson’s meeting with the press, Director of Communications Erin Little issued the following statement in response to a request for comment on how the district would respond to the tribe’s move that we sent March 12:

“The Shawnee Mission School District stands behind our schools, and the decision to represent Native Americans proudly, through our school names and team images. Our Indian mascot and traditions have never been intended to disrespect anyone. Quite the opposite, we are proud of our heritage and are dedicated to preserving the history and memories of Native Americans. We understand the concerns and will continue an open dialog within our community.

SM North won’t be the only high school in Kansas that has faced a controversy of its use of the Indian as a mascot. In late 2015, a community group began organizing to have the Manhattan-Ogden School District change the mascot of Manhattan High School, which has been the Indian for more than 75 years. After a year of deliberation, the school board ultimately voted to keep the Indian mascot, citing concerns about the potential cost of replacing all of the Indian imagery used throughout the school among the considerations. The district estimated it could cost more than $300,000 to replace all of the Indian imagery — though many of the items would eventually need to be replaced regardless of what mascot was in place.

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