- The Washington Times - Friday, October 5, 2001

HAVRE DE GRACE, Md. Representatives of the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs last night told community members here why the local high school should abandon the team name "Warriors."

"American Indians are in a custody battle over who has the right to control their nicknames and images," said commission member Richard Regan.

Mr. Regan spoke to a panel of 12 community members selected by Havre de Grace High School Principal Stephen Williams, at a small, informal meeting in the school's library.

Mr. Regan spoke at length about why the use of Indian-inspired team names and logos are offensive to American Indians and should be banned.

Havre de Grace, a school with 700 students just northeast of Baltimore in Harford County, has been using the team name "Warriors" for more than half a century. The school's logo depicts an American Indian in ceremonial headdress.

When asked if it would be acceptable to keep the nickname but abandon the logo, Mr. Regan said, "Schools can have what would be called a neutral mascot, but they still do things that are offensive to American Indians."

The 12-member panel comprised four students, two teachers, a coach, the city's parks director, a local minister and three school alumni.

"Whatever happens, I want it to be an educated decision," Mr. Williams said. "I just don't want this decision to be based strictly on emotion. I want it to be based on knowledge."

Next week, the panel will hear arguments from people who favor retaining the nickname, Mr. Williams said. At a third meeting, to be held in private, panelists will discuss the issue and vote. Mr. Williams will cast the deciding vote in case of a tie.

Mr. Williams said yesterday he is confident the community's wishes to keep the name will be respected by the school board.

"None of the board members have contacted me about my process, and it has not become an issue at any board meeting," he said.

Mr. Regan said he felt "good about the initial part of this process," but he worried that a community vote could turn into a "referendum on racism" and he would prefer to see the issue handled by the county's elected school board.

"Let's let the people who are paid to do this do this. That's where the referendum is the ballot box," Mr. Regan said.

In Montgomery County in August, the school board set aside a community decision at Poolesville High School in which parents and students voted 493-321 to retain the team name "Indians."

Harford County Board of Education spokesman Donald Morrison said yesterday the school board has not addressed the issue at Havre de Grace High School and has no plans to.

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