More than 400 people have signed a student petition calling on Sanborn Regional High School in Kingston to replace its “Sanborn Indian” mascot that has been used since the 1950s.
The online petition that was created at Change.org and has been circulating on social media argues that it is inappropriate for the school to use the images and culture of indigenous people for a mascot.
“Native Americans and indigenous people have rich history and culture and should not be reduced to a stereotype or caricature,” the petition said.
The petition was started by a Sanborn Regional High School student who wished to remain anonymous for fear of backlash, but the campaign has since been embraced by her friend, 18-year-old senior Ava Tavares, who has been sharing it on community boards and trying to bring awareness to the effort.
Tavares said she would like to see a mascot that is a more socially and culturally relevant image than the Native American man with a headdress.
Concerns about the mascot have been raised in the past at Sanborn and other school districts in the state that have agreed to remove them.
The state Board of Education in 2002 supported the elimination of such mascots, but Sanborn and several other districts have kept them because of the longstanding tradition.
“My hope, of course, is to change the mascot to something that is more inclusive and makes more sense in our community. Having a Native American as a mascot in our community doesn’t make any sense,” Tavares said Tuesday, adding that the community doesn’t have a large Native American population.
Tavares said the goal is to reach 500 signers before presenting the petition to the school administration to consider creating a new mascot.
While more than 400 people had signed the petition by Tuesday afternoon, Tavares acknowledged that the majority of comments on social media have come from people opposed to a mascot change.
Tavares said many of the critics have resorted to personal attacks against her and other supporters of the petition.
According to high school principal Brian Stack, anyone interested in having a formal discussion on changing the mascot would have to present the petition to the superintendent, who would bring it to the school board for consideration.
“Sanborn Regional High School is aware of an ongoing discussion that some in the community are having regarding the high school mascot. According to local historians and alumni of the school, Sanborn’s mascot has been the ‘Indians’ since the 1950s. In the early 2000s, the school district formed a committee to research the mascot and determine whether or not it should be changed. At that time, the committee recommended that ‘Indians’ continue to be used, provided the school practice sensitivity and use the mascot as a way to celebrate the rich culture and history of the indigenous people in the local community,” Stack said in a written statement.
Tavares created a Facebook poll seeking suggestions on other possible mascots. The most popular as of Tuesday afternoon was the “Sanborn Huskies” followed by the “Sanborn Lions.” Huskies was the Sanborn mascot before the school switched to “Sanborn Indians.”