Court upholds native name-ban in school sports

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

A ban on the use of American Indian and Alaskan native names for school mascots and nicknames has been upheld by a judge in the state of Washington.

West Seattle High’s interscholastic teams were known as the “Indians” for 85 years before the school board adopted a policy last summer to not use native names.

“We set an example today,” said a jubilant Mariana Harvey, a member of the school’s Native American Club, which had pushed for the change.

She said native “mascots are offensive. We don’t look like that. They portray us from the past, and our history hasn’t always been good. People wanted mascots that could be scary and tough and wild. What if it was another race?”

Seattle, Washington, is named for a 19th-century chief who ceded 54,700 acres of land for the city. The West Seattle neighborhood includes Alki Point, where the first white party landed to establish a settlement on Nov. 13, 1851.

A lawyer for the school system said the new policy promotes “an environment free of bias and stereotypes” and praised native students who opposed the mascot.

“It’s difficult for young students to take a stand, and I’m pleased the court respected their position,” John Cerqui said.

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