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Cambridge School District Hears Call To Replace Racist Mascot

Cambridge Indians Logo & Moniker
Cambridge Indians Football
Cambridge Indians Logo & Moniker

An update now to a story we brought you last week: Cambridge Central School's Native American mascot and moniker were discussed at last Thursday’s school board meeting. A change doesn’t appear imminent.

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

He believes it’s time for the school district in Washington County to retire its nickname and emblem, the Indians. He drove all the way from western New York to speak during a regularly scheduled school board meeting. CCS Superintendent Doug Silvernell:

"Mr. Kane spoke in open forum both at the beginning and end of the meeting to express his desire that we explore changing our logo and our mascot. He was followed by many other speakers during the evening, some expressing that they wanted to keep the logo, some expressing that they wanted to fall along with Mr. Kane's request."

Kane says during his time as a student, he was never bullied, abused or traumatized in any real way by having his culture or ancestry mocked by the school using a native reference or image for its mascot, a Native American man in profile wearing a headdress.

"I think my message was well received. Now they didn't put me on the agenda as I had requested, and I brought that up. So other people comments as well, there were people who were very much into dug in with the notion of a native mascot. And then there were other people in the community who spoke, who spoke about their concern about and agreed that it was time to change it. So I would say as far as the comments from the public, they were kind of split along those lines."

Kane adds that during the board meeting, some old friends who are also Native Americans spoke during public comments.

"They spoke about how special it felt for them to be Indians in Cambridge and which is actually, you know, kind of part of the problem as far as I'm concerned. But they spoke about having never felt, you know, discriminated against, and of course, I never made that claim. My claim is that is that the practice is wrong because it stereotypes. It creates a false image of what anybody would perceive a native person to be.”

Silvernell says none of the First People who spoke alleged racism. He adds in the spirit of racial equity the district has hired a consultant.

"Who is going to be working with us, reviewing our policies, reviewing our protocols and our procedures to make sure that we kind of view them for any implicit bias in them."

Silvernell and Kane agree that national politics has helped move the process along, both citing the Washington NFL team changing its logo and mascot as an example of racial progress. Kane has offered to participate in any future discussions or gatherings on the matter at Cambridge.

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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