ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — The New York State Education Department announced their decision to ensure school mascots, team names and logos are non discriminatory toward Native Americans which applies to all public schools.  This was an issue some thought was settled back in 2001, when Former Commissioner of Education, Richard Mills said that while some members of the Native American community feel honored by school symbolism, others do not. 

Mills then asked schools to end the use of Native American mascots. Many schools complied, but not all, one of those schools was Cambridge Central School District. In June of 2021 they retired their “Indians” team name logo and mascot, but that was reversed following the election of a new school board. The community responded by challenging the reversal. Current Commissioner Betty Rosa and the Supreme Court in Albany agreed that public school districts are prohibited from using Native American mascots.

John Kane is a Native Activist and Cambridge High School graduate. Kane says his time at Cambridge was enjoyable even though he did receive the occasional Native American stereotypes. He said back when he was in school, the mascot wasn’t as obvious. “It wasn’t this overbearing symbol that you see if you were to take a stroll through Cambridge it’s.. it’s almost insane, it borders on obsessive the presence of the logo… it’s really kind of over the top,” he said.

Kane said there was no clarification of what type of Indian was even being used as the mascot, and it’s wrong to teach generations of students that that’s what a Native American was and still is today. “They don’t acknowledge our presence, they don’t acknowledge who we are, or the fact that frankly we’re still engaged in pushing back systems of oppression in the United States,” said Kane.

Capitol Correspondent, Amal Tlaige reached out to the Education Department to clarify the new requirements. In a statement they said: “The Department is developing regulations that will clarify school districts’ obligations in this respect. These are issues that will need to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis….”