The Shawnee Mission School District says it’s keeping the Indian at Shawnee Mission North six months after the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma’s move to rescind permission it gave the district for use of the mascot in 1992.
“The district listened to many voices and gathered input from multiple focus groups over the last several months,” said district Director of Communications Erin Little. “We have deep respect for our alumni, community, and all students. There will be some changes to pre-game ceremonies for the new year, at this time Shawnee Mission North will be keeping its mascot.”
After students at Lawrence High School successfully lobbied building administrators there to have a banner depicting the SM North mascot removed from their gymnasium on the grounds that it was disrespectful to native Americans, Shawnee Mission pointed to the resolution passed by Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma leaders 25 years earlier as a rationale for keeping the mascot.
But no one from the district had had any contact with the Eastern Shawnee Tribe for years, and when alerted to the situation by a student journalist from Lawrence High, Chief Glenna Wallace said the tribe planned to rescind the permission it had given. Wallace noted that the regalia worn by the mascot was not authentic to the Shawnee people, who were forced to relocate to Kansas from their homelands in the woodlands of the east following the Indian Removal Act of 1830.
“The image is not of a woodlands Indian,” Wallace said of the mascot this spring. “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.”
Shawnee Mission isn’t the only district to wrestle with whether to keep an Indian mascot in recent months. Late last year, the Manhattan-Ogden school board voted to keep the Indian as the mascot for Manhattan High School, but formed a committee to explore the potential costs and timeline for changing the mascot in the future. That committee made its recommendations to the board earlier this summer, suggesting the cost of retiring the mascot would be around $275,000.
The district has not yet responded to a request for further details about who was involved in the decision making process for Shawnee Mission over the past several months as well as what specific changes will be made to the pre-game ceremonies at Shawnee Mission North.