Writer shares his views in response to comments made in a Journal Live virtual mascot discussion and a Spring edition article.
I’m a 30-year resident of Manhattan, parent of two daughters who are Manhattan High School graduates, grandfather of five enrolled in the USD 383 school district, and a Cherokee citizen. I’ve been actively involved in the MHS Indian issue since 2001, having represented the MHS Indian retention group in a 2016 MHS forum, and serving on a 2017 USD 383 joint stakeholder committee.
I viewed the KLC “School Boards and the Native American Mascot Debate” on June 23 and read the May 12 Journal article by Mike Sherry (Spring 2021). Having served in leadership at Kansas State University and working with the press for over 30 years, my responses to both the forum and article are mixed. With due respect to KLC efforts, I’d hoped for a debate in the webinar, but saw nor heard no pro-American Indian imagery comments. Doug Stigge, my neighbor for many years, has been a great representative for MHS alumni, but I saw no comments in Mr. Sherry’s article from American Indians in Manhattan about retention of the MHS Indian.
Civic issues can be very contentious, often because people are uninformed or unprepared for the kind of discussion mentioned by Shawnee Chief Benjamin Barnes in the online forum. Such a discussion is yet to occur in Manhattan. Neither of the panelists representing the community (Board President Jurdene Coleman and former board member Leah Fliter) mentioned that over 4,500 people signed a petition in 2020 strongly supporting the MHS Indian.
The petition included names of members of the Santee Sioux, Cherokee, Dakota Sioux, Delaware, Peoria and Prairie Band Potawatomi tribes, among them Dr. James Rezac, a Prairie Band Potawatomi and principal at Manhattan High School for 24 years.
The MHS Indian image honors Frank Prentup, a Tuscaroran Iroquois born in Kansas, a K-State graduate and U.S. Navy veteran who was a respected MHS educator and coach. The image was drawn by Brent Yancey, a Prairie Band Potawatomi tribal member and MHS art instructor. The MHS Indian is not a mascot. During the past 80 years MHS has abandoned use of all irreverent or derogatory imagery, i.e. headdresses, the tomahawk chop, and verbal or visual references to tribe and/or tribal elders. Native American imagery eradication groups speak for few American Indians. Multiple surveys of several thousand individual American Indians reveal that 69% to 91% of those surveyed do not object to the use of Native names and imagery in sports.
Research reported in the journal Contemporary Educational Psychology 37:171–175 (2012) demonstrates that eliminating native-themed images develops a “past negative mindset” in youth that promotes “cultural genocide” of legitimate Indian names and likeness. Research published in the journal Motivation and Emotion 41:209–229 (2017) demonstrates that positive educational environments discussing both sides of an issue promote “adaptive engagement” in the formation of student identity.
Charles Michael (Mike) Smith
Editor’s note: Smith is on the Cherokee Indian Nation Registry #C0181121; He is also a: Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science; Fellow, Entomological Society of America; Fulbright Scholar, Research Council for International Exchange of Scholars; University Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Kansas State University.
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A version of this article appears in the Summer 2021 issue of The Journal, a publication of the Kansas Leadership Center. To learn more about KLC, visit http://kansasleadershipcenter.org. Order your copy of the magazine at the KLC Store or subscribe to the print edition.
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