Below you will find the personal statements made by all five Board of Education members at the September 14 regular meeting.
Brian Nichols, President
I appreciate the respectful response from the community, and have read every piece of input that we have received. The feedback is rich and indicative of a community that is passionate, proud, and willing to engage in education, research, and dialogue.
I, along with the community, have done a great deal of self-reflection and education over the past several months. I’ve read countless articles and researched other institutions who have changed their use of Native American imagery. This has been humbling and eye opening.
This journey has lead me to some important discoveries that challenged my pre-conceived notions of what honoring native cultures looks like and who decides what is honoring versus what is not. I believe in what it means to be a Warrior, and am proud of the characteristics that I ascribe to that name - being strong, brave, disciplined, passionate - to name a few. I also believe that our current Native American imagery is inspired by the best of intentions. However, it has become clear that while not the intention, the current imagery and related cultural references do not appropriately honor Native Americans and as voiced by those in this population, are offensive in stereotyping them. It is these voices that guide my thoughts and recommendations for how we move forward.
I firmly believe that we need to do more to honor the Native American culture and tribes that inhabited our community before us - this was a universal principle in all my research and the community input, pro and con against our use of the Warrior logo. We must commit to providing more meaningful and informed education about indigenous people. We can and must do this, and can do so with a new, non-Native American-based Warriors logo that reflects our values and community pride, and truly respects the very people we wish to honor.
Ken White, Vice President
This issue is not new. I remember about 10 years ago as we remodeled the Elementary Schools and Junior High there were similar discussions. At that time, the difference was we had no consistent logo image and different buildings might have a slightly different image. It was decided to keep the Warrior Logo Image but remake it into a more generic, positive look and to become a consistent brand across the district. A committee of board members, student and citizens designed the current logo to represent positive traits. Current discussions regarding images across this region and nationwide has raised awareness of perception. Regardless of what we see in the logo image; we must recognize that others may see something that is not intended.
I love Mariemont and love that my kids are Mariemont Warriors. They and I are proud to be a part of our strong community. I have read each comment we received from our community via our request through the district communication and appreciate so many people taking the time to thoughtfully weigh in. I have also done extensive research relating to our logo.
A few years ago, I felt exactly the way some people in our community feel today about our warriorhead mascot. I thought it was honoring of Native American people and their heritage on this land.
Quite honestly, it never occurred to me to actually do research or ask Native Americans if it was INDEED honoring to them. I just thought it was.
Then I began my work with the district’s Global & Cultural Perspective Committee and had my eyes and mind opened to how marginalized people feel on different subjects relating to themselves and how different that can be from MY PERCEPTION of how they feel. I have been humbled by and grown in this work.
In the past several months I, like many, have done extensive research on many topics relating to social and racial justice and equity. More than anything I have realized I have a lot to learn.
One of the first things I learned when looking into this topic we’re talking about today, the topic of the use of Native American imagery, was this is not new.
Many people think this is just the current hot topic, because it’s getting a lot of headlines and tweets. But I learned Native American people and their representing organizations have been quite clear on their stand relating to the use of Native American imagery for well over 50 years.
In 1968 the National Congress for American Indians launched a campaign to address stereotypes of Native people in popular culture and media as well as in sports. The NCAI is the nations oldest, largest and most representative American Indian Native advocacy organization.
To be clear, as the NCAI states relating to Native American imagery as mascots, “Specifically, rather than honoring Native peoples, these caricatures and stereotypes are harmful, perpetuate negative stereotypes of America’s first people and contribute to disregard for the personhood of Native peoples.”
I am not Native American so in trying to understand all of this while I was researching and learning, the closest thing I could equate this to was my gender. As a woman, having a man use a character of a woman for their mascot and then tell me that should honor me doesn’t seem right. He doesn’t know what it feels like to be a woman or what I believe is honoring to women. To be fair, depending on how flattering the artwork was, I may or not be ok with it! But, when I apply that thinking to our warriorhead logo and the overwhelming research indicating how Native American people and their representing organizations feel about it, I have to pay attention to their voice. From my own lens, I think we have a fantastic logo surrounded by best intentions. But, I have learned that my voice is not the one I should be listening to in this situation. The voices of the people we believe we are honoring with our logo are consistent and longstanding that they do not actually feel honored.
My job, as an elected official, is to do the work on behalf of the community to keep our district heading in the right direction for our students. It is a job I take seriously and am committed to. Part of that is researching and educating myself on topics the district is involved with. So, I have educated myself on this issue. I have read many articles relating to this and it has become clear to me that while we may see our beloved warriohead as an honoring image, the vast majority of the very people we think we are honoring do not.
We are Warriors in this community. We are not warriors because our logo tells us we are, we are warriors because of whom we are inside and who we are together. We are a strong & courageous community. Changing our logo doesn’t change that.
A very wise friend sent me an article recently that had a quote in it where Native American and US Army Colonel, John Orendorff, stated, "the underlying point of these 'honors' is that my Indian Heritage is owned by others. The message I'm constantly getting is: 'We own you. We will define how we honor you'". (ESPN, Paul Lukas, 2/13/2013).
I think upon reading that quote is when I truly got it. I have been a part of this district for over 20 years and have always been so proud of our mascot and truly saw it as an honor to wear and celebrate. But that quote made me understand. It isn't about cancel culture or giving in...it is about doing the right thing.
Thank you to the Global and Cultural Perspectives Committee and each community member who submitted a response to the district’s survey request and who has engaged me in a conversation on this important topic. After careful review of all the data provided as well as researching this topic myself, it is my opinion that we should remain the Warriors but replace our current Native American imagery used for our logo.
It is also my opinion, that the research shows the use of Native American imagery is not seen by those within that community as honoring their legacy but rather as harmful and offensive. I believe that a change to our logo represents our acknowledgement of and sensitivity to a changing time.
Our goal as a district is excellence in education where our students become global learners and committed members of their community and world. My hope is that this change will be seen as moving forward this goal as well as providing a safe and equitable environment for every learner within the Mariemont City School District.