- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 28, 2001

The Montgomery County [Md.] school board will take on the Poolesville High Indians today as part of Maryland's ongoing mission to rename 30 public school sports teams that use "Indians," "Braves" or "Warriors" as their nicknames.
Poolesville will likely put up a fight, however, if residents like Erin Pittenger have their say.
Mrs. Pittenger, who is part Cherokee, said she "strongly believes [Indians] was never meant to be an offensive name" and doesn't understand why the school board and Maryland's Commission on Indian Affairs can't abide by a community vote taken in May in which students and townspeople voted to retain the name "Indians."
The board will review a resolution proposed by Superintendent Jerry Weast to ban "offensive" team names as well as related mascots, logos, chants or fight songs. Whether board members take action is another matter.
School board spokesman George Margolies said he couldn't predict whether the board would adopt the resolution. "I don't have a sense at this point where the board is on this as a majority," he said yesterday.
The county school board tackled the issue of Indian-inspired team names after the Maryland State Board of Education voted 10-2 to urge eliminating "the use of logos, mascots and team descriptions related to American Indians." The state board was pressed to do so by the Indian affairs commission.
Two weeks ago, Gov. Parris N. Glendening decided the Indian affairs commission had become a bit too zealous and determined it exceeded its authority when commissioners in early August called for a boycott of sponsors of a Germantown Little League whose teams used the names "Indians" and "Braves."
Mrs. Pittenger, whose son, Travis, 17, is a senior at Poolesville, was one of those who voted to keep the name "Indians" after the Indian affairs panel visited Poolesville in May and presented its argument for abandoning the team name.
Mrs. Pittenger says what she finds offensive is the school board's lack of respect for the votes of 800 community members.
"The fact that they're taking the vote away is a very poor civics lesson for the girls and boys in the high school right now," Mrs. Pittenger said. "Why do we have a democratic process if it doesn't work?"
Mr. Weast's resolution lists two other Montgomery County schools that use Indian-inspired imagery, but two of them have already dealt with the issue.
Montgomery Village Middle School has already agreed to change its teams' nickname, "Warriors," to something else.
Sherwood High in Sandy Springs — whose sports teams are also nicknamed the "Warriors" — likely will not be affected because the school argued that its mascot was not an Indian, but an archer resembling Robin Hood, the mythical rogue of Sherwood Forest lore. Also, Sherwood has agreed to remove arrows and lances from the logos on its new football helmets.
This leaves Poolesville, with its student body of about 750, in the sole cross hairs of Mr. Weast's resolution.
Poolesville town manager Jim Alsobrook said, "I'm for the kids. If [Indians] is what they want, then I'm all for it. I don't see anything wrong with it."
Poolesville's town commissioners also favor retaining the name. They sent a letter to the high school's principal, Mark Levine, suggesting it be used in conjunction with an Indian appreciation course.
"The Poolesville school district is located in an area … rich in Indian heritage and surrounded by historical Indian sites, and the use of the Indian as the high school mascot honors the memory of our historical roots," Commissioner Roy Johnson wrote.
There are 2,544 residents with Indian ancestry in Montgomery County, or three-tenths of a percent of the county's 873,341 population.
Mr. Weast's resolution calls for a "phase-in period" that would allow Poolesville time to rename its team. The school would be given money for new uniforms and to help pay to remove all traces of its headdressed Indian chief mascot from school hallways, ball fields and gymnasiums.
"That's everything we asked for," said Indian Affairs Commissioner Richard Regan, a Lumbee Cheraw Indian who lives in Montgomery County.
Mr. Regan said the issue of Poolesville's "Indians" hit home with him earlier this year when his teen-age son played baseball against them.
The "Indians," he said, gathered in a huddle between innings and psyched themselves up by yelling the word "Injuns."


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