Originally published on June 10, 1996
The North High School nickname issue will be in the spotlight again tonight.
At issue is whether the mascot - the Redskin - should be changed. Some people consider it racist and demeaning to American Indians; others consider it an integral part of the school's heritage and a way to honor American Indian culture.
Members of the school's site council will discuss the issue at 5:30 p.m. in the Temple Room, located inside the library of the school, 1437 Rochester. The council is a group of parents, school staffers and school neighbors who can make recommendations for changes in the school to administrators.
But don't expect any decision to be made tonight. Although people on both sides of the issue have said they will attend the meeting, site council members are expected to establish a process for addressing the issue, nothing more.
In light of the discussion that's sure to surround tonight's meeting, two Eagle staffers share their thoughts on the issue. ******** MAYBE, MAYBE NOT
By Rod Pocowatchit, The Wichita Eagle
The controversy surrounding North High's "Redskins" brought on inevitable questions, especially since I am Native American.
"How do you feel about it?" People would ask me. "Does it bother you?"
After careful consideration, my answer is: sort of.
Now that may sound like a wishy-washy response. And it's not just because I'm skirting the issue, believe me. I'm trying desperately to take a stance. It's just that on the scale of things that offend me, calling North High's sports team the "Redskins" is pretty low on my list.
Granted, there is a lot of tradition rooted in North High's team mascot, and perhaps the name was chosen to honor the spirit of Native American strength and tenacity. Back then, it looked like we were a strong people, who fought hard for what we believed in. Of course we did, for one simple reason: We had no choice.
But using these team names is a choice. Were the names originally meant as a mockery or as a salute? That was a long time ago, and actually, no one really knows.
It is undeniable that sports teams want to be perceived as rough, tough and unstoppable. I mean, duh. And all the names that come to mind are being used by many teams: Redskins, Chiefs, Braves. All very stereotypical names - and I used to feel OK about it, as long as people understood that they did perpetuate stereotypes we have all fought to end.
My views changed when I went to an Atlanta Braves game.
Before that, I thought the whole controversy was just blown out of proportion. People are just having fun, I thought.
Until I saw the Atlanta Braves fan sitting in front of me teaching his little boy how to do the "Tomahawk Chop." And surrounded by a stadium full of people doing the same thing made me feel small, insignificant and very alone.
A Braves game isn't supposed to make me feel like that. But it did.
And North High's team name isn't supposed to offend anyone. But maybe it does.
I'm sure it seems absolutely bizarre to some why anyone would want the name changed.
"What?" Many people are asking in astonishment. "No way!"
And a great many more are thinking: "Lighten up. It's just high school sports."
But at least someone is questioning what has been taken for granted for a very long time.
Just because it has been perceived as acceptable, doesn't make it so.
And just because it seems OK to dance around like a "wild Indian" in joyous support for your team, doesn't mean it is.
Now don't get me wrong. I love victories just as much as the next guy, and I'm all for having a great party.
And I also think society is generally getting too touchy for its own good.
But I'm saying: Think about it.
Someone is questioning what is going on. Someone is wondering if we can understand each other a little better. Maybe you don't agree. Maybe it angers you.
But maybe you can see both sides of the issue if you try.
Granted, a lot of things have happened that can't be changed. Maybe it's too late. Maybe we should fight bigger battles.
But one thing's for sure: Native Americans have fought against insurmountable odds before, and we still are, being the slowest growing race in America. And we've been called a lot worse things than "Redskins."
I don't care if North High changes its team name.
But I do care if you don't see why we shouldn't think about it.
And, maybe, why it should never have happened in the first place.
Rod Pocowatchit is a member of the Pawnee, Shawnee and Comanche tribes.
THE NICKNAME FITS
By Bob Lutz, The Wichita Eagle
I'm offended, you're offended, all God's children are offended.
You can't walk down the street these days without upsetting somebody.
Whatever happened to: "Live and let live."
Some of the big news in Wichita recently has involved two Native American women who take offense to Wichita North High School's mascot.
They say it's derogatory. They say North's mascot should have nothing to do with Native Americans, and they're intent on getting it changed.
They feel strongly about the subject, and they have formulated well thought-out reasons for their outrage.
But I strongly disagree with their premise. The identity of North High, which has a rich tradition in academics, sports and everything else, is woven through its mascot. If you haven't witnessed a North High cheerleaders war dance before a basketball game in the North gym, you have missed something.
It is something that celebrates Native Americans and makes the rest of us think about what a rich and beautiful culture they have.
North High is almost a Native American museum, and its mascot is a proud reference to that culture. At least, I'm sure it was intended that way.
In today's society, who knows?
The two women, obviously, consider the reference a slap in their faces. The question is: How many others agree with them?
When schools choose mascots, they generally try to go for something they're proud of. Whoever decided that North athletic teams should be named the "Redskins" didn't make that decision out of disrespect.
Three other high schools in Kansas -- Little River, Liberal and Hiawatha -- also are called the Redskins. Quite a few others have mascots with similar origins: There are 17 Indians, four Warriors, two Braves, two Chieftans, two Redmen and one Kaws.
I didn't attend North, but as a sports reporter I have a lot of experience covering the Wichita City League. And, I have to admit, North has always been one of my favorite places to go.
I love the architecture of the school. I love its setting, with the Little Arkansas River flowing just west of the school. I love the Minisa Street Bridge over the river, a bridge designed with busts of Native American faces.
North High is the most diverse high school in the city. Stroll through its halls, and you see students from many cultures and many backgrounds.
And, judging from stories I've read in The Eagle regarding this matter, many of those students don't want anybody interfering with the school's mascot.
It's their school. It belongs to them and to the North High alumni and to the thousands and thousands of people who have attended school there.
Not very many of those students, including a significant number of Native Americans, have complained. Apparently, they see the mascot as reverential, which obviously is the way it was intended.
How it is interpreted now by what seems like only a few is worthy of discussion, but not much else. It's always important for society to assess its standards of decency, and occasionally to make changes in that regard.
I happen to live in the North High district. My son will be an eighth-grader in the fall at Hadley. And if the school decides to change North's mascot, you know what I'll do?
I'll still send my son to North in the fall of 1997. I'll get over it. But I'll shake my head and wonder about our oversensitized world.
Bob Lutz is a general assignment sports reporter for The Eagle. He can be reached at 268-6597.