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In Reversal, Cambridge School District Now Dropping Mascot And Logo

Composite photo by Dave Lucas

In a reversal, a Washington County school district will now drop its "Indians" mascot and logo.

For months the Cambridge School District has been debating whether to drop its Indian logo and mascot, following several schools and pro sports teams across the country that have banished their old images and associations depicting Native Americans as part of the national racial reckoning.

Just last week, the school board was leaning toward retaining the Indians name and redesigning the logo to reflect American Indian imagery, awareness, and culture. School Board President Neil Gifford said 80 some odd years of having the mascot has not led to any greater awareness of who Native Americans were, or are.

"Just last night, The Washington Post, a national newspaper, issued a chilling editorial on what we're doing with the actions of the community, and the inaction of the Board of Education. So I hope they, and all of you, whether you agree with me or not, see that  I have tried to do my part, as board president to facilitate and as a board member to participate in a responsible and respectable process of deliberation."

Some 20 years ago the state education commissioner, citing the inappropriate message sent to children, asked school districts to end the use of Native American mascots and team names.

John Kane is a Native American activist who attended Cambridge Central School from the third grade until he graduated from high school in 1978.

"Well, I'm glad to see that the Cambridge Board of Education appears to have voted three to two to retire the mascot. After eight months of just back and forth and that kind of thing..."

Kane argues that schools, colleges and sports teams using a race-based name or image for their name and “brand” are simply wrong.

"It's just hard for me to believe that in 2021, there's actually still a debate on whether the use of a native mascot is OK or not. How is it that white people calling themselves Indians, labeling themselves Indians on their shirts their jerseys, sometimes decorating themselves up as Indians. How is that even a question anymore? I mean, it's hard to believe."

Kane is incredulous that the board let the mascot controversy drag on for so long.  Gifford said he'd been working hard to find the right answer. He admitted heated discussion escalated throughout the community, much of it on social media. The district at one point called in a conflict-resolution mediator.  Last week's unanimous board agreement to a compromise seemed to only bring more unwanted attention to the school. Thursday night, the board went back to the original resolution to dismiss the logo and moniker, and thus the bell tolled for the Cambridge Indians.

"I'll get a roll call vote  in reverse order. On the resolution that's on the floor. Mr. Honyoust. No. OK. Member Ziehm? No. Dr. Roosevelt? Yes. Mr. Breault. Yes. And the President votes Yes, the motion has passed. Resolution R is adopted."

It’s not clear what the district’s new logo and mascot will be.

The resolution is effective July 1st.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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