There have been multiple stories, opinions, and discussions surrounding the edict from the State of New York to force Owego to remove the Indian as our school mascot.
First, I would like to say that I understand some people’s point of view regarding the many injustices that Native Americans have had to endure over history. I am not in favor of depicting the Native Americans in a bad light. I believe in Owego although there has been bad history here, and that we, as a community, have taken many steps to honor our native brothers and sisters.
Let me start with our name derived from the Iroquois word Ahwaga, meaning “where the valley widens”.
If we remove the Indian as our Mascot, will we need to remove the Owego name from our town, village, school buses, etc.?
Next let me point out what many of us know as Indian Girl’s monument (Sa Sa Na Loft) in Evergreen Cemetery.
Will we need to remove any reference to the Monument and therefore erase the important message it represents, “Sa Sa Na Loft: Mohawk Maiden, Christian Music Missionary, Educational Patron of the Mohawks. This Obelisk rested by Owegans in 1855 is the earliest known Monument to a native American Women in the U.S.A.”
Lastly let me refer to the Statue of the Indian “Appeal to the Great Spirit” that is prominently displayed on the OFA Lobby.
Will we also remove this from our school?
My point is, if we remove the Mascot will it not be another example of the negative in History? I was always taught to learn from history. If we start with removing the Mascot what will be next? There may be negative history in our treatment of the Native Americans, but Owego is a place that has shown their goodness by holding the Native Americans in high esteem throughout our community. I cannot express it better than this from a former student from OFA.
The student wrote, “The mascot is not [offensive], and here is why. People claim that it is making fun of the Indian tribes, but I see it differently. Being of native descent, I find it awesome that my ancestors are praised and highlighted in my school. I do not feel that they are being made fun of whatsoever. I feel that they are being showcased as the reason we’re all here, and that they are the foundation of my school.
“Another argument that the other side presents is that the Indian we use as a logo is not one from this side of the world. However, I do not believe that that was the point at all. The point of using that image is that it is the Great Spirit, and it is a symbol that all our students’ spirits are linked as one.”
It is my opinion that keeping the Indian as our Mascot will help preserve this rich history, and removing it will be a disservice to the Native Americans and may very well lead to removing more of their rich history.
John M. Loftus