C-A drops Indians image, nickname in 6-3 vote

A virtual public forum discussing whether to retire and replace the Coxsackie-Athens mascot and team name, the Indians, drew heated debate.

COXSACKIE — The board of education could vote as early as Thursday on eliminating the district’s mascot and team name, the Indians.

The issue has brought heated debate from both sides.

Native American-themed mascots have been disputed in both professional and college sports, and the Coxsackie-Athens district has joined the fray.

The district has held a number of informational sessions and conducted an online survey to gauge community reaction. Local residents responding to the survey came down on both sides of the issue with some wanting to keep the mascot and others finding it offensive and derogatory for those of Native American ancestry.

Last week, the board of education held a question-and-answer session with Heather Bruegl, cultural affairs director for the Stockbridge-Munsee Community.

The district met with Bruegl during a virtual forum March 3 to discuss the issue, and wanted a second opportunity to clarify the issue last week.

Native American-themed mascots perpetuate historical trauma for indigenous people, Bruegl said.

“You are not a mascot, you are a person,” she said. “It is such a hot-button issue that can be emotional at times.”

Supporters of retaining the mascot have said it is a way to honor the heritage of the school district and the area.

But there are better ways to do that, such as teaching the history and culture of the indigenous people who once inhabited the area, Bruegl said.

“Mascots can be harmful,” Bruegl told the board last week. “They can be detrimental. They can bring up that historical trauma and the historical depression, so that is something we want to be mindful of. There are so many more positive things about being indigenous than being a mascot. I think we can work together and bring some education and awareness.”

Supporters of retaining the mascot said during a March virtual forum that the Indians name is meant as a sign of respect.

“To many of us in the community, the Indian represents pride, strength and respect, and we feel that we are honoring the Indian and Native Americans by using that symbol to represent us,” parent, teacher and C-A alumna Shelly West said in March. “The Indian mascot has been around for generations.”

The board of education will hold its next meeting Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the Coxsackie-Athens Middle School library, 24 Sunset Boulevard.

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(1) comment

Riverdweller

Watch the crowds in Florida college stadiums who continue to mime tomahawk chops as they “root for” their team and tell me this is about respect for Native Americans.

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