People gathered at the Keller ISD school board meeting Thursday night to demand the Keller High School mascot be changed from the Indians. But parents and alumni pushed back.
Those trying to keep the mascot say it’s part of Keller tradition, meant to honor the area’s Native American history.
“We want our school left alone. We want our pride left alone,” said Teri Owens, who graduated as an Indian in 1982. But members of the Society of Native Nations said such a mascot has negative effects and teaches stereotypes.
“It must be changed,” said Arthur Red Cloud. “The name, the headress, everything has to be changed.”
Diana Parton takes pride in her Native American heritage.”I am a citizen of Cahto Nation, and I am a descendant of Yuchi nation,” Parton said.
She and friend Yolanda Blue Horse don’t see that pride reflected in the name and mascot the Keller Indians. Blue Horse said she was deeply offended by what she saw at a recent Keller football game, from cheerleader uniforms to fans doing the “tomahawk chop” in the crowd.
“Our dress, our regalia, the way our ancestors dressed is very sacred to us, very sacred,” Blue Horse said. “If I feel this way, if I feel hurt, if I feel misrepresented, if I know that this is not the way I was raised of who my people are, how does a child feel, who is in the years of self-identity?”
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It’s been a long fight to change Native American mascots across the country. In recent months, Blue Horse and Parton watched as Confederate names were changed in quick succession and wondered why their case is different.
“I believe that we are still the only minority that it’s OK to make fun of and to stereotype and to caricature,” Parton said. But Keller Indians supporters say the mascot of 75 years has never been about disrespect.
“In the early settlement here, Indians were settled with the community,” said Keller graduate Larry Owens. “I think that Keller Indians actually honor bravery and stand for bravery.”
An organizer for the alumni who want to keep the mascot told NBC 5 he’s hoping to plan a cultural day to educate the community on Native American history in North Texas.
It is not clear where the controversy heads from here. The school board must approve any change in the mascot and the issue has not been placed on its agenda.