A member of the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs yesterday said the panel’s campaign to pressure school systems into abandoning nicknames such as “Indians” and “Warriors” is likely near its end.
Commission member Richard Regan said the campaign received a “death blow” Monday, when the principal of North East High School in Cecil County accepted the recommendation of a 17-member panel to retain the school’s team name “Indians.”
“It’s certainly a death blow to the mascot campaign in Maryland,” said Mr. Regan, who is a Lumbee Cheraw Indian.
He said the decision sends a “clear signal to other jurisdictions” that they don’t have to take the issue seriously.
North East Principal Rosalie Humphrey said the committee spent nine weeks gathering evidence and testimony before reaching a consensus to retain the team name, which has been the school’s mascot for 75 years.
“It was very difficult,” Miss Humphrey said, adding that modifications will be made to the school’s Indian logo to make it more representative of the Susquehana Indians who once inhabited the area.
Cecil County Public Schools spokeswoman Karen Emery said yesterday the school board would accept the principal’s decision.
“The board felt it was a local issue and certainly supports the process the school embarked on,” she said.
Mr. Regan criticized the state Board of Education for its lack of involvement in the issue.
In July, the board endorsed a resolution of its minority-achievement committee that condemned schools’ use of Indian-inspired team names. The board stopped short of amending regulations that would require schools to change the names and instead asked local superintendents to develop educational programs to address the issue.
Department of Education spokesman Ronald Peiffer reiterated yesterday that the state board might not intervene if a local school board decides not to change an Indian name, noting the costs involved and the effect on the community.
He said the board has no plans to address the issue of Indian team names at its meeting next month.
“Why make a recommendation and not stand by it?” Mr. Regan said. “It certainly sends a message throughout the state of Maryland that American Indian children don’t count.”
The decision at North East, which is about 50 miles northeast of Baltimore, follows a decision by Harford County last month, when schools Superintendent Jacqueline Haas announced that she would accept the decision of Havre de Grace High School’s principal to retain that school’s team name, “Warriors.”
Of the 14 school systems in the state that have Indian-inspired team names, only Montgomery County has elected to change.
In August, the school board ordered Poolesville High School to change its team name, “Indians,” by next school year and promised to cover the estimated $80,000 cost of replacing its team uniforms, letterhead and the school’s gymnasium floor.
That decision set aside a community vote in May, in which parents and students voted 493-321 to retain the name.