Residents of Cambridge in Washington County remain bitterly divided over the public school's use of an American Indian logo and moniker.
Dillon Honyoust is a member of Onondaga Beaver Clan, an Iriquois, who lives in the Cambridge Central School District.
“The name and logo, you know, is an icon that leads us to the truth. When you when you think about Native Americans, any icon that you see, is about strength, honor, pride. Always a positive symbol to portray the strength of our heritage.”
Honyoust says the Cambridge Indians logo and moniker have been a positive symbol in the local community for decades.
“Not only just in Cambridge, but across the entire country, these names and logos are some of the few distinct symbols that are helping to preserve our heritage. You know you think just back a few hundred years ago, you know, American Indians were, you know primarily who inhabited this country. It was almost 100% and today it's 2%. If you were to remove all the names and logos, which from my understanding is kind of a goal for those who are, you know, combating, trying to remove these names and logos. If you were to envision all of the names and logos to disappear, to be gone, what kind of effects will that have on our heritage? Is that preserving our heritage or is that increasing the genocide , the erasing of the American Indians?”
Honyoust believes Cambridge has presented the Native American in a positive way, and says American Indians across the country have identified with major league sports teams that use Native mascots.
"There have been schools out there that did have, say, a white person dressed up as in Indian with war paint and a full headdress of feathers, which is not a proper representation, running around, doing a tomahawk chop, something like that, that, you know, the application is incorrect. So that can be misleading and that potentially can be offensive.
I've talked to some of my relatives on the Oneida Indian Reservation. They're the elders, you know, in their 50s 60s 70s. And they grew up loving the Washington Redskins. My grandfather, in fact, he wasn't even a Washington Redskins fan, but he wore the Washington Redskins jacket. So you have a true connection to that logo. It's just a way to identify as American Indians in a positive way, that's truly what they believe in their heart, and they're proud of it. And then for somebody to come in, or a group of people to come in, or cancel culture to come in, for them to tell these guys that they're wrong. And sometimes even these guys are being called internalized racists."
Earlier this month the school board postponed voting on whether to keep the mascot. Not everyone agrees with Honyoust’s position.
John Kane has spoken at school board meetings, asking the panel to explore changing the logo and mascot. Kane is a Native American activist who attended CCS from the third grade until he graduated from high school in 1978.
"How is it appropriate that a village or town of predominantly white people, Cambridge is like 94, 95% white. How is it appropriate for a town to adopt a people who are the victims of genocide by white people? They were murdered, we were scalped, we were, we were enslaved, we were driven off the land. Why is it even appropriate that a white community would adopt native people as their mascot?”
CCS Superintendent Doug Silvernell says the district is currently looking at three different firms to mediate the dispute.
Honyoust is hoping when the school board meets again on May 18th, they'll choose to keep the Indians logo and moniker.