SANTA FE — Controversy over the use of mascots derived from Native American groups has not spread to Santa Fe, school district officials said.
The Indians mascot appears to be here to stay.
The use of Native- American-inspired mascots has been a hotly contested topic at both a local and national level, with attention focused on the Washington Redskins of the National Football League.
A coalition of Native American groups has protested the name as being offensive and campaigned for its change. Politicians, civil rights organizations and others also have weighed in on the subject, with President Barack Obama saying in an interview last year that he would change the mascot if he were the team’s owner.
Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has repeatedly insisted that the name will not be changed, and that the mascot honors Native Americans.
This month, the Houston school district adopted a policy banning mascots and nicknames that could be considered culturally insensitive. The new policy will force four campuses to change mascots.
The Lamar High School Redskins, the Westbury High School Rebels, the Hamilton Middle School Indians and the Welch Middle School Warriors will have several months to choose new mascots and nicknames.
It’s very unlikely that Santa Fe will follow suit, school district officials said.
Athletic director Jay Buckner said he has heard no complaints about the Santa Fe mascot.
“That’s been the tradition and name for so long, I don’t see it changing,” he said.
School district spokeswoman Patti Hanssard said the district had not received any complaints about the Indians mascot.
“There is no discussion to change the name,” she said.
The Indian mascot, like the name of the school district and city, originates with the Santa Fe Railway.
The communities of Alta Loma, Arcadia and Algoa that formed around the railroad banded together to create the Santa Fe school district in 1928. The railway’s mascot was Little Chico, a Native American boy wearing a feathered headband.
The railway, which merged with the Burlington Northern Railroad in 1996 to create the BNSF Railway Co., no longer uses Little Chico.
Many teams at professional, college and high school levels have abandoned similar mascots or the use of Native American imagery. Miami University notably changed its mascot from the Redskins to Redhawks.
At Florida State University, the Seminoles’ name is officially sanctioned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
Several local campuses also have changed mascots throughout the years. Texas City’s Blocker Middle School athletic teams once were represented by the Demons.
Many Santa Fe alumni and parents of students appear to support the Indians name, arguing that the tradition and history of the mascot in Santa Fe in no way denigrates a cultural or ethnic group but instead honors Native Americans.
That sentiment also seems to prevail among fans of national teams with mascots referring to Native Americans. A survey released by Public Policy Polling earlier this month found that 71 percent of those polled supported the Washington Redskins’ name.
However, county residents have mixed opinions on the mascot.
Texas City resident Dedrick Johnson said changing mascots that could be considered offensive is the right thing to do.
“Most of the people who see absolutely nothing wrong with (Native- American mascot names) are not of that demographic,” he said.
Theresa Black, a Native American who was raised on a reservation in Oklahoma, said the mascots were culturally insensitive.
Santa Fe alumnus Mandy Batten said there was nothing culturally insensitive about the name. If anything, it honors the legacy of Native Americans, she said.