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DOWNEY : School Votes to Keep Indian as Mascot

March 02, 1995|PSYCHE PASCUAL

Griffiths Middle School in Downey will continue to use an Indian chief as its symbolic mascot despite concerns by Native Americans that it promotes racist stereotypes, officials said this week.

About 74% of the 147 parents who responded to a poll indicated that they want to keep the Indian mascot, Principal Sara Cairns said. Most students also said they favor keeping the mascot.

Cairns, who supported a switch, said she plans to hold a series of workshops for students to promote a better understanding of Native American culture. School administrators decided to survey parents and students after receiving a complaint from Native American activist Matt Thunderhawk, Cairns said. Thunderhawk and other Native Americans said the mascot, which is used on the school's stationery and uniforms, promotes racist and offensive stereotypes.

Thunderhawk said he was disappointed in the school's decision, but hoped he could meet with parents and students later in an effort to change their minds.

"I think it's unfortunate that they all think this is an honorable thing, regardless of what Indian people think," he said. "We deem it as dehumanizing and making fun of us, but they don't seem to care. In their eyes, it's not offensive."

Thunderhawk said he also plans to challenge other schools, including Santa Fe Springs High School, which uses an Indian chief as its mascot, and Compton's Centennial High School, which has an Apache mascot.

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