Will Maine West High School drop Native American mascot?
Maine West High School is reconsidering its use of a Warrior mascot amid criticism from members of Native American nations.
The mascot for the Des Plaines high school is a Native American with a blue feathered headdress wearing fringe leather clothing. Social media photos and a video of the mascot dancing barefoot in front of students during a recent school assembly caught the ire of Brett Chapman, an Oklahoma attorney and member of the Pawnee Nation.
"What we face is this stereotype caricature as wild Indians and savages," Chapman said. "To me, the thing reeks of disrespect, this tradition that they're making."
Even as other schools have eliminated Native American-themed mascots, Maine West High School has retained the imagery.
In 1994, Mary Littlefield, a poet laureate emeritus of the Cherokee Nation, dedicated a poem to the school during a school assembly.
Years later in 2007, she weighed in on the high school's mascot when the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign did away with Chief Illiniwek. At the time, she said the high school did not offend Native Americans, but she did question why her people are singled out as mascots.
Until recently, school officials had been under the impression that the mascot was not offensive, spokesman David Beery said. Now school administrators are internally reviewing the school's practices and "discussing a range of options."
"Any utilization of the Warrior mascot to this point has been grounded in the belief that we have portrayed the Maine West Warrior with dignity and respect at all times, emphasizing the qualities of leadership, integrity, responsibility, respect and empathy toward others," the district said in a statement.
However, when Chapman brought attention to the mascot in a series of tweets, it prompted a response from officials in Cherokee Nation.
"The Cherokee Nation did not endorse Maine Township High School West's warrior mascot 20 years ago, and certainly does not approve of its use today," Secretary of State Chuck Hoskins Jr. said in a statement.
"The high school's depiction of Cherokees is not fitting or appropriate and would not gain the blessing of our tribal government or 360,000 citizens. A barefoot mascot in leather fringe wearing a headdress has no relevance to our culture."
Hoskins said he believes the school had good intentions and is encouraged that school leaders realize that the depiction is hurtful.
Chapman, who's recently started bringing attention to Native American stereotypes, said this particular case caught his attention because of the high school's basis for keeping the mascot.
"To me, what really is egregious about this is these educators claim to have some moral authority from a nation, from a legally recognized tribe," Chapman said. "It's complete malarkey."