Tradition plays a major role in Anderson High School’s identity.
From the chieftain and maiden’s traditional halftime dance at home basketball games to the city’s historic ties to the Delaware tribe, the high school continues to retain its Indians nickname.
“I don’t know if there was trouble with it before but as far as I know nobody has any real issues with it,” said Anderson athletic director Steve Schindler, who is heading into his 14th year in the position. “The city is so connected that I don’t think anyone has questioned that.”
Like Anderson, many athletic programs have relied on tradition and history as the rationale for their nicknames and mascots, but following the U.S. Patent Office’s cancellation of the Washington Redskins trademark, attention is again being focused on what is and isn’t appropriate.
While this longstanding debate has been focused on the professional and collegiate levels, a new focus on legislation has brought the issue to high schools.
Wisconsin become the first state to adopt a ban on the use of Native American mascots and imagery in 2010. Oregon followed suit in 2012 with a ruling that gave schools five years to get rid of offensive images, names or symbols that refer to Native tribes, customs or traditions. Schools that do not comply will lose state funding.
A similar ban in Indiana would affect 37 schools with mascots or nicknames based on Native American imagery. These names include Braves, Warriors, Blackhawks, Indians, Cherokees, Mohawks and Redskins.
Out of the 37 schools only, four have the nickname Redskins; Manual, Fort Wayne North Side, Goshen and Knox.
Currently, Manual is operated by CSUSA. The organization elected to maintain the status quo because “they are not in a position to make a decision on names and logos,” said Colleen Reynolds, school spokesperson and president of Edge Communications, in a statement to the Star.
The majority of the schools’ nicknames are products of the time, like Manual, which became the Redskins in 1896. They are also tied to history.
“These mascots are constant reminders to Natives of history. When people dress up like this, it brings it up to us,” said Scott Shoemaker, a citizen of the Miami nation in Indiana. “It’s in your face.”
Because of the fine line with mascots, area schools work to maintain a balance between school tradition and what could be potentially considered offensive. Danville (Warriors) and Whiteland (Warriors) both do not have live mascots despite logos that show a Native American in full headdress.
Whiteland brought in an alum who was connected to one of the local tribes to discuss a volleyball poster that had stereotypical images and symbols, like headdresses, on it.
“I checked with him for inaccuracies, “said Whiteland athletic director Ken Sears. “We didn’t want to offend and with me being a history teacher, I knew there were at least some historical inaccuracies.”
Sears’ attempt to prevent the use of generalized images of Native Americans differs from the way mascots are often portrayed. constant Elements of the “Plains warrior” are often incorporated with local connections, like tribe names to create the image, said Shoemaker, who holds a doctorate in American Studies.
These images create an issue for Native Americans at any age, but Shoemaker, a native of Kokomo, Ind., remembers how playing against teams with Native American based mascots affected him.
“Looking back how it affected me as a young person … I can see that it made me uncomfortable,” Shoemaker said. “Outsiders are determining who we are. If you don’t fit that conception of who they think you are, you aren’t a real Indian.”
And because of that unease, more common mascots like Warriors and Braves have been included in bans and resolutions. But despite the prior instances that hold all Native American-based nicknames to the same standard, some find that the different names vary in offensiveness.
“The connotation of Redskins is different than Indians. I think Redskins brings up images that are … well the connotation is just different,” said Schindler.
Danville athletic director Jon Regashus also said there is a distinct difference in the nicknames.
“That’s not the same thing. ‘Redskins’ is a racial slur,” Regashus said. “You can’t use those standards for Warriors.”
Whatever the guidelines applied, Shoemaker would just like for the programs to be held accountable.
“I would like to challenge those places to reach out to us to do it in the right way,” he said. “That is honorable and respectful, to acknowledge and move forward.”
“That’s the honor that we need.”
However, Sears sees it both ways.
“It is important that schools respect that tribe, but if that community is okay with it then I’d say its fine, said Sear.
Follow Star reporter Autumn Allison on Twitter: @Aallison25.