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Shelter Island School Board votes 7-0 to stop using American Indian as school mascot

The Shelter Island High School is located at

The Shelter Island High School is located at 33 N Ferry Rd, in Shelter Island, NY. Credit: Doug Kuntz/Doug Kuntz

The Shelter Island School Board will no longer use an American Indian as the school’s mascot following a petition from community members calling it offensive and insensitive.

The school’s logo, which appears in the middle of the gymnasium floor and other locations, features the head of an American Indian wearing a feathered headdress. The image also appears on some school uniforms.

Lisa Kaasik, 24, graduated from the high school and started a petition to change the Indians name and mascot that has amassed more than 2,100 online signatures.

School board president Kathy Lynch said the district will convene a task force to decide on a new name and mascot. The school board voted 7-0 Aug. 31 to make the switch.

“Much of what was discussed at our two meetings had to do with continuing to honor the Native Americans of Shelter Island, and we’ve had a number of wonderful suggestions and offers of help,” she wrote in an email. 

Concerns over the use of indigenous people as mascots have been voiced on Long Island and at the national level, and have escalated this year amid the Black Lives Matter movement and calls for more racial equality.

Petitions are circulating on for the Manhasset, Sewanhaka and Syosset school districts on the North Shore to replace their Indian mascots, as well as Brentwood in Suffolk County. As of Thursday, the Manhasset petition had more than 2,100 signatures; Sewanhaka’s had almost 1,000 names; more than 1,200 people had signed the Brentwood petition and Syosset’s had almost 800 signatures.

The Sewanhaka district will survey the school mascots and gauge “their appropriateness to the school and community values,” superintendent James Grossman said Thursday in a statement, adding that updates will be shared at future school board meetings.

Bianca Collins, of the Shinnecock Indian Nation, spoke on behalf of the tribe at the Aug. 31 meeting in support of retiring the mascot. Collins said that while she understood some felt the mascot honored indigenous people, she said educating oneself and showing support for the tribe’s current issues is a better way to show respect.

“Everyone is happy to see this change happening,” Collins said. “It sends a positive message that indigenous people are being heard.”

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