Saying that imagery associated with the school’s Braves mascot could be viewed as insensitive and may contribute to the objectification of indigenous peoples, the Belinder Elementary PTA has moved to stop using Native American imagery in spirit wear and other materials it produces.
The idea for the resolution on discontinuing use of Native American imagery was brought before the PTA’s general membership by the school’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, which was formed in 2017. The resolution was unanimously adopted by both the PTA’s executive committee and all of the members who attended a general membership meeting last week.
“While the Belinder PTA recognizes that the Belinder Brave as a mascot has a long and rich history within Belinder School, we felt the removal of Native American imagery from our PTA documentation was an important and necessary step towards inclusiveness,” said Tracy Dillon, the Belinder PTA president-elect.
Dillon said feedback from both the Diversity and Inclusion Committee and parents at the school had led leadership to determine it was time to take action.
“It was discussions within this committee and with other Belinder parents that led the PTA to reevaluate the use of the Belinder Brave image and recognize that it could be considered insensitive outside of the school environment and not in line with the values set by the Belinder PTA and PTA National regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Dillon said.
Many in the Shawnee Mission area began to take a fresh look at use of Native American imagery and names used for schools and mascots in 2017 following a string of incidents that led to the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma to rescind the permission it had granted back in 1992 for the use of the Indians mascot at SM North. School leaders at SM North reviewed the mascot program following the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma’s decision, but ultimately decided to keep the Indian as the mascot — though they made tweaks to the attire and movements students playing the Indian chief and princess use.
Language in the resolution approved by the Belinder PTA notes that the “Belinder PTA and our parents want to be on the right side of history on this issue,” and that the PTA has “no obligation to wait for the SMSD to make the changes to school mascots that have been controversial in recent years, including the Belinder Braves.”
The resolution adopted by the PTA relates only to PTA-produced materials, though, meaning that Native American imagery placed throughout the school by the district itself will not be affected.
“This unanimous decision, to remove the imagery from our documentation, by both the Belinder PTA Executive Committee and General Membership will not affect any Belinder School representation,” Dillon said.