As part of a district-wide review, the Kansas City, Kansas school board determined that at least one school needed to change its mascot. Edwin Birch, a district spokesperson, said Arrowhead Middle School’s mascot, the Apaches, may contribute to the stereotype of Native Americans as “aggressive or savage.” Birch noted that the Apache tribe is not local, and Arrowhead no longer uses images of the mascot.
Ellen Beckley, a Wyandotte County resident, said her sons went to Arrowhead Middle School decades ago, and even then she was surprised the school mascot was still being used. She said she was glad the neighborhood was changing.
“I would say it’s probably long overdue, given that we’ve been considering changing names that might be offensive to Native Americans for, what, 20 or 30 years,” Beckley said.
Gaylene Crouser is the executive director of the nonprofit Kansas City Indian Center. She said when she first read that Arrowhead had dropped the Apaches’ mascot, she was excited. Crouser thought it was a step in the right direction, but she thinks the school should also change its name.
“When you start looking at the school name always Arrowhead, I always feel like it always appropriates that culture. I mean, especially when they’re talking about Native American culture, it’s always that throwback to that warrior stereotype,” Crouser said. “So this classification of Indigenous people, and I feel like removing it from the culture that it’s associated with, really leaves those stereotypes still.”
Beckley disagreed. She said she felt like arrowheads, while traditionally used by Native Americans, are part of Kansas history.
“My kids were in scouting and they were, you know, so excited to find arrowheads. I mean arrowhead, you say the name and a lot of people think rock, tool,” Beckley said. “I don’t see how that’s offensive, but again, that’s not for me to judge.”
On March 9, the district appointed a mascot nominating committee. The committee created a list of more than a dozen potential mascot names, including Archers, Badgers, Bison and Cheetahs. Birch said the next step is to whittle the list down to three options and then get community feedback.
Crouser said if district officials don’t change the name of the college, they should be careful about the name of the mascot they choose. She said if they kept going through Arrowhead and choosing Archers as their mascot, people would still imagine Native Americans.
“And then the same with the bison, you know, they were always placed in the same sphere,” Crouser said. “And that’s good because, you know, as Lakota women, we are very close to the bison. But these are our stories and our relationships.