Local Graduates’ Petition Asks Manteo High School to Retire Mascot
A petition started by a group of Outer Banks high school graduates asking that Manteo High School and Manteo Middle School retire their schools’ mascot names because they are offensive to Indigenous people has gained more than 700 signatures as of this writing.
A 2005 graduate of Manteo High School, Holly Overton got the initiative going and soon enlisted friends Rachel Endsley (Manteo Class of 2005), Kristen McCown (Manteo Class of 2007), and Kate Carbocci (First Flight High School Class of 2006), who were more than willing to help out. The group worked together to draft the petition and a letter to Manteo Principal John Luciano, as well as doing research, outreach, promotion, and strategizing. Additional letters will go out to the Dare County School Board in the coming days.
The team first contacted the Roanoke-Hatteras Council of Algonquian Indians of N.C., Inc., who provided a statement dated June 2020, which says: “Native Americans who strongly identify with being Native American and engage in tribal cultural practices are deeply insulted if called ‘Redskin’. ‘Redskin’ is equivalent to the ‘N’ word. ‘Redskin’ is a slur and an inappropriate way to describe Native Americans. It may not be mean to tell someone their skin is reddish. But it is mean to call someone a ‘Redskin’. There is a difference.”
A portion of the petition states: “It’s time for Manteo High School and Manteo Middle School to adopt mascots that past, present, and future students can proudly support. We are demanding that Manteo High School and Manteo Middle School begin phasing out their mascots and choose new mascots for the 2020-2021 school year.
“The town of Manteo exists on land that once belonged to the Croatan Nation. Manteo Middle and High School’s mascots, the “Redskins” and the “Braves”, are part of a tradition of Native objectification and stereotyping in sports. Native mascots have been statistically proven to harm contemporary Native American people’s mental health, especially that of children. Native Americans are real living people with lives built around values that have shaped both Native cultures and U.S. society: respect for family and elders; shared responsibility to care for the land; and an obligation to do right by the next generation.
“No one deserves to see their heritage insulted, ridiculed, or represented by someone else, yet Native Americans have been mocked and dehumanized by slurs and images in team mascots at every level, from elementary schools to professional leagues.
“Although many community members feel pride in the connection to Chief Manteo, the word ‘Redskins’ and associated caricatured imagery does not honor his legacy. It has a clear history as a racial slur, as one of the meanings referred to the literal human scalp bounty hunters would rip from slaughtered Native people to receive payment from the state government as part of state-sanctioned eradication of the Native population. The mascot of the ‘Braves’ promotes a trying-on of Native identity without any historical or contemporary context. The use of Native mascots contributes to the elimination of real historical and racial dialogue and one of contemporary Native Americans’ greatest struggles, the issue of visibility.”
A 2014 article by Esquire confirms that the term “Redskin” does, in fact, mean the scalped head of a Native American, sold, like pelt, for money. The article cites an excerpt from The Daily Republican newspaper in Winona, Minnesota from Sept. 24, 1863, which reads: “The State reward for dead Indians has been increased to $200 for every red-skin sent to Purgatory. This sum is more than the dead bodies of all the Indians east of the Red River are worth.”
While the petition to change the local mascots was launched on June 29, just yesterday (7/2/20) the same request was made by FedEx, asking Washington, D.C.’s NFL team to change its mascot. FedEx is the title sponsor of the Washington team’s home field stadium. Nike, which makes the official NFL jerseys and merchandise, removed all Washington products from its online store yesterday, as well.
FedEx, Nike, and PepsiCo all reportedly received letters on June 27 from 87 investment firms and shareholders worth a collective $620 billion asking the companies to terminate their business relationships with the Washington team unless the mascot name is changed. The Washington team announced on Friday, July 3, that it would undergo a “thorough review” of its name following “discussions the team has been having with the league in recent weeks.”
Overton, a singer/songwriter and performance artist who currently resides in Brooklyn, New York, tells OBX Entertainment, “We want to stress that this is not meant to pit people against each other, but to promote calm, constructive discussion and awareness in the community.”
She said her team hopes to get signatures and participation from every graduating class of Manteo High School alumni.
“If you are a Manteo High School alum interested in representing your class and helping spread the word to your classmates,” Overton said, “please contact [email protected].”
To support the initiative, you can sign the online petition to change Manteo Middle and High Schools’ mascots here.