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Oneida Nation Representative commends students at Cooperstown Central School

Cooperstown students vote to end use of “Redskins” as school mascot

The Oneida Indian Nation has offered to help the Cooperstown Central School District purchase new uniforms for its sports teams, as the school considers dropping “Redskins” as the school mascot.

Students of the combined middle and high school voted this month on names to replace the Redskins nickname that goes back to the 1920s. The vote was prompted by students who found the nickname offensive to American Indians.

The Cooperstown school board is seeking input from the community before it makes a final decision.

Here is the letter from Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter:

February 15, 2013

Cooperstown Middle/High School
39 Linden Avenue
Cooperstown, NY 13326

Dear Cooperstown Central Middle and High School Students:

Shekóli. Greetings of peace from the people of the Oneida Indian Nation. We wish to express our deep appreciation and respect for your courageous decision to end using the word “redskin” as the school mascot. We understand that such decisions are not always easy to make.

The idea that students would undertake such a thoughtful and compassionate action speaks well for the way Cooperstown is enlightening its youth, and speaks well for the future of your community. Your actions take an additional significance, as well, due to the proximity of your school to the institutional grounds of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame where players from athletic teams named “Braves” and “Indians” are regularly celebrated. You have announced a standard that recognizes that mascots which are known to dehumanize and disrespect any race of mankind have no place in our schools, or our great country.

We understand that your courageous decision also comes with a financial consequence and, unfortunately, potential backlash from those who somehow claim that ethnic stereotyping is a victimless crime. We therefore wish to honor your courage and assist your transition to a new, more inclusive mascot. The Oneida Nation would like to lend its support and provide a donation to your school to help offset the necessary costs of changing mascots. We would be honored to help your athletic teams purchase new jerseys that reflect your new team name.

Additionally, we were so moved by your actions that we are now working with This Week from Indian Country Today, a weekly magazine covering Indian Country in the United States, to organize other Indian nations in creating a fund for other schools to follow Cooperstown’s leadership by removing their ethnically insensitive mascots.

Two centuries ago, during the founding of this country, the Oneida people fought alongside the colonists here in New York during America’s War for Independence. We were America’s first allies. The spirit of what both our ancestors fought and, at times perished for, is honored by your actions and you can reflect with great pride knowing that the bond of honor and respect formed between our people centuries ago has not been lost or forgotten simply by the passage of time.

All New Yorkers can be rightly proud of the students of Cooperstown Central Middle and High School for your leadership, and for using your platform as the home of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame to stand up for something bigger than yourselves. Thank you for seeing that racially insensitive caricatures have consequences. And thank you for being a message to the rest of the country that says we can still honor our schools and our sports teams without dishonoring our country’s races, cultures and shared heritage.

N^ki' wa,

Ray Halbritter
Nation Representative

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