CAMBRIDGE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – This week, Cambridge Central School District praised a decision in the ongoing legal case surrounding whether or not to change the school’s “Indian Warrior” Native American school mascot. The case is back in court with a new judge, to determine whether intervention by New York State Education Commissioner Betty Rosa will be deemed an overuse of authority.
Last June, the Cambridge School Board voted to retire the mascot, and the school’s dubbing as “The Cambridge Indians,” citing cultural insensitivity. Just a month later, one member of the school board had retired, and a new one joined. The new board voted to reverse the decision. A group of parents petitioned Rosa, who sustained their appeal late last year, giving Cambridge until July 1, 2022.
In February, the Cambridge School Board voted to appeal that decision. Their appeal was filed under Article 78 of Civil Practice Laws and Rules on March 22 in New York State Supreme Court.
The appeal is in court this week, and may reach a decision point sooner than expected. Shortly after the filing, Acting Supreme Court Justice Denise Hartman ordered Commissioner Rosa and the four families who petitioned her to write letters detailing why Rosa’s decision should be upheld.
The deadline for the defendants is April 22. For the Cambridge School Board, it’s April 19. The board voted 3-2 to pursue the legal action – the same margin by which it had voted to reverse the mascot decision to begin with.
“While the district would have liked Justice Hartman to order the temporary restraining order, we appreciate that she set an expedited briefing schedule, which could mean we get a final decision sooner than later,” read a post dated April 4 on the Cambridge Central School District website. “Another judge will now be assigned to the case and will consider whether Commissioner Rosa’s directive that the district eliminate its use of the ‘Indians’ nickname and logo should be stayed, pending a final decision on whether the commissioner acted arbitrarily and exceeded her authority. The district filed its appeal because the Board strongly believes the commissioner overstepped her authority.”
For the time being, Rosa’s decision remains fully in effect, giving Cambridge a July 1, 2022 deadline to remove the “warrior” mascot from all forms of school use. The “Indians” sports team name would also be retired. One portion of Justice Hartman’s letter would have halted the order entirely, but those lines were crossed out of the final draft.
Cambridge is not alone in being a North Country school district with a mascot that may change. Last November, Lake George Central School District opened discussion on whether to change its own school icon, a similar Native American depicted in a headdress. That image is clip-art of a Plains Indian, a tribe not connected to the Adirondack region.
The town of Cambridge sits on Mohican, Abenaki and Wabanaki land, according to Native American mapping resource native-land.ca.