Members of the Lumbee Tribal Council spoke out against South Point High School’s Red Raider mascot at the Gaston County Board of Education meeting Monday night.
Tribe leaders have called the mascot — and the red-faced Indian logo that covers school grounds — an inaccurate and derogatory representation of Native American people.
“We find it very offensive and demeaning,” said Yvonne Dial, a member of the Lumbee Tribal council. “They do not know our history and the past trauma that our people have experienced.”
The Lumbee Tribe has about 50,000 members, including some who live in Gaston County. The Catawba and Cherokee Indian Nations are the most prominent tribes in Gaston County, and the northwestern side of Mecklenburg County.
The pushback against South Point’s mascot is not new.
One year ago, the Retire the Red Raider campaign was formed to advocate for changing the mascot. The group started an online petition that now has about 7,000 signatures.
The petition’s correlation with the Black Lives Matter protests and the name change for the Washington Football Team was no coincidence.
“The timing was definitely influenced by national events and the calls across the country for racial justice and consideration for how past practices have impacted communities of color,” said Laura Boyce, a leader of Retire the Red Raider.
There were two student-led protests at home football games this spring.
“I don’t really believe this mascot truly represents our community of Belmont, of South Point,” said Vy Hoang, South Point class of 2021 graduate.
Hoang was one of about 15 speakers Monday who asked board members to change the school’s mascot.
“I’m not proud to be a Red Raider,” rising senior Ryan Simms said. “I’m proud to be a part of our school… but the Red Raider just divides our community.”
A couple of speakers on Monday spoke in favor of keeping the mascot and logo, including Charlie Martin, mayor of Belmont.
“That names been in there for a long time, and it’s not offended anybody around here that we know of,” Martin said.
A 70-year resident of Belmont also objected to removing the Red Raider mascot, saying, “We don’t have any ill feelings towards Native Americans.”
Members of the Lumbee Tribal Council have joined activists in Gaston County to petition the school district to rename South Point’s mascot.
Native American images in sports
In addition to the Red Raider logo, other instances of Native American cultural appropriation are common at South Point football games, according to Retire the Red Raider. These include the tomahawk, red face paint and war whoops.
“It’s inappropriate,” said Jessie Jacobs, a member of the Metrolina Native American Association. “Gaston County is teaching their kids bad things.”
The Gaston County Board of Education has yet to take any action on the mascot.
According to Todd Hagans, a spokesman for Gaston schools, mascots are typically determined at the school level.
Board Chairman Jeff Ramsey and member Justin Davis, who represents South Point on the school board, did not respond to The Charlotte Observer’s request for comment Monday.
There was no vote, no debate among the board and no response from any of the board’s elected members on Monday. It was at least the second time speakers have signed up to implore the board to change the mascot.
Monday’s meeting was held inside the Gaston County Schools Central Office, but only one person was allowed to enter the board’s chambers at a time. A district representative refused to let an Observer reporter inside to hear the discussion, citing COVID-19 social distancing rules and saying the public meeting was being streamed online.
If the mascot were to be changed, there are a couple of options for its replacement, attendees of the Monday board meeting said.
One option is keeping the term “Raider” and removing all Native American imagery. Additionally, the school could revert to its use of “Cardinals,” which was its mascot until “Red Raider” was established in 1964.
Problems related to Native American imagery and appropriation in schools are not isolated to Gaston County.
In the Charlotte region, including South Point, there are still 11 schools that use Native American imagery, the Observer reported last year.
In April, the State Advisory Council on American Indian Education recommended that the State Board of Education review policies related to the selection of athletic mascots. The recommendation also called for better education on the “long-term, damaging effects to students when inappropriate images and messages dishonor the American Indian culture.”
Since that recommendation, the Gaston County Board of Education has taken no action to review its mascots, Hagans said.
Source by news.yahoo.com