Manhattan group pushes to change high school mascot

TOPEKA (KSNT) — A high school mascot is causing controversy in the Little Apple.

You’ve probably heard about several national movements to re-name teams that have disrespectful or derogatory connotations for Native Americans.

Now one group of Manhattan residents feels their high school mascot falls in that category and needs to be changed.

The Manhattan Indians.

That mascot has been a tradition of the school going on 75 years now.

A mascot created to honor former football coach Frank Prentup.

But a symbol a few community members aren’t comfortable with.

“It wears on you. And if you see that every day in a learning environment, that makes it a hostile environment with respect to learning,” said LaVerne Bitsie-Baldwin, a concerned member of the Manhattan community.

That’s why she wants to see the mascot replaced.

There was a similar push to change the Mascot in 2001, but the Board voted then, very narrowly, not to.

Several alumni tell KSNT News that the mascot isn’t meant to be derogatory. In fact it has evolved in recent years to serve as symbol of honor.

The latest mascot was even designed by a faculty member who was a member of the Potawatomie Tribe.

I’m told the school also did away with this mascot head-dress and some costumes twirlers for the band used to wear at games.

But Bitsie-Baldwin says that doesn’t fix the root of the problem, “Of course there’s always intent, and intent to honor. But that misses the point of the harm it does to all students.”

“Those students such as my son who attends there feel ostracized on a daily basis knowing that their heritage and their identity is continually being misrepresented,” said Sonya Ortiz.

No formal proposal has been presented to the board of education yet but those ladies hope a meaningful community dialogue will start and lead to positive change.

KSNT News is told an informational meeting on the push for a mascot change is scheduled for January 27th at 6:00 p.m.


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