Union Public Schools announced Monday that it will "entertain a proposal" to change its mascot from a derogatory term for Native Americans it shares with Washington's NFL team.
“We have been having conversations internally for quite some time about the possibility of making a change,” said Superintendent Dr. Kirt Hartzler in a statement posted to the school district's Facebook page. “Many, both inside and outside our community, have had conflicting emotions over the years regarding Union’s mascot, and we strongly believe that now is the time to take up this issue once again."
In the statement, Union Public Schools said it has used the mascot since 1945, and that in 2003 the Board of Education voted to retain it.
“However, it is important that we reconsider this name to see if it aligns with the district’s core values that we have today,” said Hartzler in the statement.
Cherokee Nation citizen and Native advocate Amanda Clinton said she commends the district for considering the change.
"If you are waiting on justice, you have to be realistic and have patience," Clinton said. "I think we knew it would have to happen one day -- it was just a matter of when."
"Native mascots aren't just cartoons. They're not just drawings. They're not fictional characters. These are representations of actual people, and they are hurtful," Clinton said.
Clinton also cited research that has found Native mascots are particularly psychologically harmful to Indian youth, who suffer from a higher suicide rate than children of any other racial or ethnic group.
Clinton said that she hopes Union Public Schools will make the change, both for itself and for other districts with Native mascots and team names.
"I really applaud Union for doing this, because when they set the example as a big school, as a school that's successful in academics and athletics, then others will follow, and I'm really proud of them for setting this example and going forward," Clinton said.
Hartzler said the issue of the possible name change will be taken up at the next meeting of the board of education, scheduled for Monday, July 13th. The announcement comes as professional sports teams are also publicly reconsidering their Native American team names and mascots.