National Congress of American Indians Calls on Wildwood to Change Warrior’s Name | Local News
WILDWOOD — A national Native American organization is asking the school district to change the name and logo of its sports team.
The call comes shortly after another Native American organization endorsed the Warriors name. The organization is also working with Absegami High School, which is considering the future of its team name, the Braves.
Wildwood school officials recently announced the district would retain the Warriors name and image of a man wearing a feathered headdress. In announcing the decision, the school cited an endorsement from the Native American Guardian’s Association.
The district modified the image slightly, with advice from the Aboriginal group. School officials maintain that the image honors Native Americans and the Wildwood Warrior spirit.
National Congress of American Indian officials don’t see it that way.
“It has come to our attention that the Wildwood City School District community has heard a group of people of self-proclaimed Indigenous ancestry support the retention of the ‘Warriors’ moniker and associated imagery,” read a statement from organization, sent in response to an interview request.
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Ashley Hamilton, research associate in tribal governance and special projects for the NCAI, described the organization as the oldest, largest, and most representative organization of Native American and Alaska Native nations and citizens. , and led the movement to remove Indigenous-themed mascots. sports and popular culture.
Crystal Hutchinson, a teacher in a nearby district and a graduate of Wildwood High School, had raised objections to the name in 2020. Native American images and mascots in professional, college and high school sports have come under increasing scrutiny. more thorough in recent years.
“As the NCAI and tribal leaders across the country have publicly stated, if supporters of ‘indigenous-themed’ mascots look hard enough, they will be able to find people who support their cause,” the statement said. national group. “However, as sovereign nations, only the duly elected leaders of tribal nations have the right to speak on behalf of their communities. So while these individuals are entitled to their opinion, when taken as a whole, Indian Country’s will is clear – the Native “themed” mascots and the dehumanizing stereotypes they perpetuate must go.
“Their hypocrisy is breathtaking,” said Tony Henson, one of the leaders of the Native American Guardian’s Association. He said the organization uses some of the same images it condemns when used in school athletics.
He said most Native Americans have no problem with school names like Warriors, Chiefs, or Braves.
Henson said there is a huge disconnect between most people living on reservations and politicians and tribal groups calling for Indigenous images to be removed from sports teams.
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“Native Americans can speak for themselves,” he said.
Henson, who is Cherokee and lives in Illinois, spoke on a conference call with Jonathan Tso, a registered member of the Sioux Nation. They said most Native Americans are concerned about crushing poverty on reservations and other entrenched social issues, not the names of sports teams.
In addition to schools in Wildwood, they said they work with Absegami in Galloway Township. Last year, Absegami officials said they were reviewing the Braves name.
“Like many, we felt it was timely and appropriate to seek advice from Indigenous people regarding our name and mascot Absegami,” wrote James M. Reina, superintendent of the Greater Egg Harbor Regional High School District, of which Absegami is a part. . “After an evaluation conducted and unanimously approved by the Board of Directors of the Native American Guardian’s Association, we are proud that they have identified our ‘Current Native nickname and imagery are (as) very dignified and respectful’ and n saw no need for change.”
Along with college and professional sports teams, school districts have worked to accept Indigenous images in sports, amid growing calls for their removal.
“They made a suggestion, which we greatly appreciate, that we are committed to moving forward. This advice was to spread to students, alumni and the greater community at large both the story of the term Braves as well as the story of our school’s nickname and logo,” Reina wrote.
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Henson and Tso said their organization doesn’t just support native names and images, although NAGA doesn’t want to eradicate them. Henson said they insist schools don’t have a costumed mascot and discourage anything that looks cartoonish or mocking in the images.
Tso said he advises schools to ask fans and family members not to attend games with feathers, headdresses or face paint, items that may have ceremonial or cultural significance. They also encourage schools to work with Indigenous nations and organizations, to include Indigenous issues in the curriculum as well as in the field or field.
It could also include cultural events, Henson said.
“A trip to a powwow would be good,” he said. He cited several examples of Indigenous nations working with universities and schools for consultations on the use of Indigenous imagery and education on tribal history.
There are no federally recognized Native tribal organizations in New Jersey. There are state-recognized tribes. Attempts to reach someone for comment from the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Indians of New Jersey or the Powhatan Renape Nation, two South Jersey native organizations, were unsuccessful. A number listed for the Powhatan Renape was not accepting messages and the website was not working. There was no immediate response to emails and a phone message was left with the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Council.
Wildwood school officials said they view the Warrior’s use as a tribute to the Lenni Lenape people who lived in South Jersey and visited the region’s barrier islands long before the first original people Europeans did not settle in what is now Cape May County.
But the statement from the National Congress of American Indians argued for the removal of Indigenous images from school sports.
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“Out of respect for tribal sovereignty, we ask that you consider the voice of tribal leaders representing hundreds of tribal nations and organizations serving their citizens – not the voice of a few individuals – when evaluating Indian Country’s position on this issue,” the statement read.
“In the absence of a formal agreement with a sovereign tribal nation that maintains a historical and/or contemporary connection to the land, the NCAI supports the removal of ‘Native-themed’ mascots employed by K-12 schools and teams. sports across the United States,” the statement concluded. .
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