CAMANCHE — The Camanche School Board is looking for ways to get information to the public regarding a potential change to the district’s Indian mascot and logo.
The district has used the Indian as a mascot since 1961, when it became a K-12 district, Camanche School District Superintendent Tom Parker said.
In 1991, an on-site educational equity review conducted by the Iowa Department of Education recommended the district assess using the Indian as a mascot and logo. In 1991 and 1992, the district removed mascot caricatures that might have been deemed offensive, renamed the district’s newsletter and conducted a faculty program presented by the Quad City League of Native Americans regarding Native Americans and cultural beliefs, Parker said.
In 2017, the principal at Camanche High School received a letter from the Iowa Commission on Native American Affairs, requesting an end to the use of the Native American mascot, Parker said. In 2020, the Washington professional football team and Cleveland professional baseball team said they would end using Native American mascots, and the Marion School District said it would end use of the Indian mascot, Parker added.
Camanche schools received multiple requests that the district no longer use the Indian mascot, including a letter Jan. 4 from the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi, also known as the Meskwaki Nation, Parker said. They requested the district end use of the Native American mascot.
Camanche Middle School Instructional Coach Stacey Reppert supports the change. The Indian mascot is not what makes the district great. People and races should not be used as mascots, she said.
“As a district, we weren’t wrong to pick an Indian as a mascot,” Reppert said. “At the time, we thought our mascot honored Native Americans. That was our perception.”
She said the district is unintentionally disrespecting a race.
“With all that’s going on in this world, it’s time to retire our mascot and move forward with one that does not disrespect others,” Reppert said.
Resident Dave Willis said Camanche was founded in 1836 in honor of the Comanche Indians. They have been honoring them ever since, he said.
Willis questioned whether the name of Camanche Avenue will eventually get changed. He asked who they are specifically hurting with the use of the Indian mascot.
“I don’t feel we’re hurting anybody,” Willis said. “Maybe I’m shallow. So be it. We’re not trying to hurt anybody. We’re just trying to honor the name.”
Board Member Stacy Kinkaid said the board has come to a point where the use of a Native American mascot is divisive. She noted several communications from organizations requesting the district reconsider the Indian mascot.
“I do believe the community needs to be made aware of the research and the letters we’ve received maybe on a broader forum other than this school board meeting,” Kinkaid said.
Kinkaid agreed that the district should publish documents where more people can access them and form decisions before the board further discusses the use of the Indian mascot.
Board Member Peg Wolf supported the idea, but wondered how the district should share the information with the community.
Parker suggested using the district website, social media and traditional media to get the information to the public. It is important for the public to be informed, Parker said.
“If we were not in the middle of a pandemic, it’d be easy to have a meeting or something,” Parker said. “And you know, that’s not realistic right now. So I think we need to rely on social media, technology and website and other communication vehicles we have to get the information out there as best we can to the school community.“