Manhasset school district to form committee to review use of Indian mascot

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Manhasset seniors walk at Homecoming in 2018 with shirts bearing the school's Indian logo. The district has faced criticism over its mascot due to sensitivity concerns toward Native Americans. (Photo courtesy of the Manhasset School District)

The Manhasset School District will be forming a committee to further discuss its use of Native American symbols and its “Indian” team name, Superintendent Vincent Butera said at the district’s Jan. 7 board of trustees meeting.

The announcement is the latest development in a saga that began when a Change.org petition by an alumnus asking for the mascot, perceived as outdated and racist, to be changed started around the time the former Washington Redskins announced that they would be retiring their name and logo.

The petition has received 3,400 signatures, and Sadanyah FlowingWater of the Montaukett tribe and Jeremy Dennis of the Shinnecock Indian Nation, both based on the East End, became the first Native figures to specifically request the mascot be changed.

Representatives from the Montaukett and Shinnecock nations, as well as fellow Long Island-based nations including the Ungechauk Nation, the Setalcott Nation, and the Matinecock Nation attended an Oct. 22 Board of Education meeting on the topic, voicing support for a change of mascot and suggesting other ways to educate the district’s students on Native American culture.

Of the 29 Manhasset alumni, residents, and students who spoke during the public hearing portion of that meeting, only five were in favor of keeping the mascot.

At that meeting, a committee of students, community members, and representatives of nearby nations was suggested by Sandi Brewster-Walker, executive director of the Montaukett nation, and Butera said at the January meeting that he had spoken to her recently.

The superintendent added at the recent meeting that the matter of the mascot had been put on the back burner as trials and tribulations of COVID-19 were dealt with.

“We spoke about ‘the Indian,’ and we shared at the time,” Butera said. “And we put a hold on it because of the reopening, we said that we would revisit this issue and put together a group of folks that would examine the district’s use of Native American imagery and symbols. There’ll be a committee, a broad committee, to find specific charges, select members, have a timeline.”

Butera said that Brewster-Walker was preparing a letter for the district with recommendations concerning the use of Native imagery and symbols, though he did not specify if it would be on behalf of the Montaukett Nation alone or others.

“So I do look forward to working with Sandy working with a number of our respective groups to really be thoughtful about how we approach this issue, which again, we spent a lot of time talking about,” Butera said.

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