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N.C. Public Schools May Be Asked To Stop Using Native American Mascots, Names

Posted May 1, 2002

— Washington Redskins, Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians -- sports fans may cheer, but Native Americans often cringe when they hear those names. On Wednesday, the North Carolina Board of Education may ask public schools to stop using Indian nicknames and mascots. Nearly 60 of them have Indian mascots, but the issue goes beyond schools.

Big Braves and Indian Princesses are part of a national YMCA program. Wake County has the largest chapter in the nation with 600 tribes, but the national branch of the YMCA is urging its local chapters to drop the Indian name and theme.

"The program was started by a Native American in 1926. We feel that it's a tribute to the Native American culture. There are some Native Americans who don't feel that way," program director Joe Peele said.

More than 40,000 Lumbee Indians live in Robeson County. Robeson County is also the home of the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, where 22 percent of the student body is Native-American. The university's nickname is the Braves.

"That's where I think that UNC-Pembroke is different. You know this was a university that sole purpose was to serve Native-American people. Those same people are saying, 'Don't take away our heritage,'" UNC-Pembroke athletic director Dan Kenney said.

"Why do we continue to make one race of people objects in a sense, objects," said Zoe Locklear, Dean at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and a member on the State Board of Education.

Last year, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights urged schools to stop using Indian names and mascots. Some have stopped using the names while others have not.


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