SM North is now ‘Home of the Bison,’ but school’s former Indians mascot isn’t totally gone yet

SM North Bison

Shawnee Mission North is starting the school year off as the Home of the Bison for the first time. Still, the 2021-22 school year is a transitional period, meaning while the Bison name can be seen on the fieldhouse floor above, Indian signage and gear may still be seen throughout the school year.

Shawnee Mission North is now the Home of the Bison, but students, families and district patrons shouldn’t be surprised to see the school’s former Indians mascot pop up from time to time this school year.

Officials at Shawnee Mission’s oldest high schools say they will be in a transitional period for the 2021-22 school year as they formally make the switch.

On the first day of classes last week, Principal David Ewers said the school is making the Indian to Bison changes where it can, but it will be a work in progress for the coming weeks and months.

“Part of the original plan was for this school year to be a transition from the previous mascot to the Bison,” Ewers said. “We’re in the process of examining all that that entails right now.”

Changes, then, may happen piecemeal over the course of this school year.

For instance, “Bison” has already been painted on the floor of the school’s fieldhouse in big, bold red lettering, and the plan is to replace the padding on the east side of the fieldhouse to match, Ewers said.

Likewise, staff could be spotted last week wearing T-shirts that said “North Bison,” but Ewers said it’s possible some of the school’s sports team may still wear uniforms this year that bear the name Indians.

The school is working to change as many uniforms to Bison when cost-effective, or to simply say “North,” he said.

Additionally, Ewers said he and district leaders are working with a company on designing a new Bison logo.

District administration and Ewers will work to communicate updates on the transition process as well as the new logo as more information becomes available, he said.

New policy prompts change

Earlier this year, the Shawnee Mission board of education changed the district’s mascot policy to exclude any mascots that were deemed “derogatory or offensive” to certain classes of people and also included a clause that mascots going forward needed to be “racially sensitive.”

That decision came after a months-long campaign that included, parents, community members and leaders of the Shawnee Tribe, to drop SM North’s Indians mascot, a campaign sparked by an alumni-led petition in summer 2020.

After the board voted to approve the policy change, it also voted that the Indians mascot — and the mascots for three other schools — were no longer in compliance with the new policy and needed to be dropped.

Despite the name change, Ewers — who is starting his first year as SM North’s leader — said the school will still embrace the values of diversity and success and hold on to its “tradition of excellence.”

“Shawnee Mission North is Shawnee Mission North,” Ewers said. “What we stand for as far as helping kids and embracing our community is never going to change.”