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Kansas City, Kansas, middle school to retire its Native American-themed nickname

A school in Kansas City, Kansas is changing its mascot after a district-wide review deemed their current mascot, the Apaches, culturally insensitive.
Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga
KCUR 89.3
A school in Kansas City, Kansas, is changing its mascot after a district-wide review deemed the current mascot, the Apaches, culturally insensitive.

Arrowhead Middle School plans to drop its Apache mascot after a district-wide review determined the nickname was culturally insensitive.

As part of a district-wide review, the school board in Kansas City, Kansas, determined that at least one school needs to change mascots. Edwin Birch, a spokesperson for the district, said Arrowhead Middle School’s mascot, the Apaches, could contribute to the stereotyping of Native Americans as “aggressive or savages.” Birch noted that the Apache tribe is not local and that Arrowhead no longer uses imagery 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 in use. She said she is glad the district is changing.

“I would say it’s probably long overdue, considering we’ve been looking at changing names that could be offensive to Native Americans for, what, 20 or 30 years,” said Beckley.

Gaylene Crouser is the executive director of the Kansas City Indian Center, a nonprofit organization. She said when she first read about Arrowhead dropping the Apaches mascot, she was excited. Crouser thought it was a move in the right direction, but she thinks the school should also change its name.

“When you start looking at the name of the school still being Arrowhead, I still feel like that is still appropriating that culture. I mean, particularly when they talk about culture from Native Americans, it's always that throwback to that warrior stereotype,” said Crouser. “So that pigeonholing of indigenous people, and I feel like removing it from the culture that it's associated with just really kind of just still leaves those stereotypes.”

Beckley disagreed. She said she feels like arrowheads, although traditionally used by Native Americans, are a part of Kansas history.

“My kids were in scouting and they, you know, were so excited to find arrowheads. I mean arrowhead, you say the name and a lot of people think of the rock, the tool,” said Beckley. “I don’t see how that’s offensive but then again, that’s not for me to judge.”

On March 9, the district appointed a mascot naming committee. The committee created a list of over a dozen potential mascot names, including Archers, Badgers, Bison and Cheetahs. Birch said the next step is to narrow the list down to three options and then get feedback from the community.

Crouser said if district officials do not change the name of the middle school, they should be careful about what mascot name they choose. She said if they continue to go by Arrowhead and select Archers as the mascot, people will still picture Native Americans.

“And then same with bison, you know, they were always put in the same sphere,” said Crouser. “And that's good because, you know, as a Lakota woman, we are very closely connected to bison. But those are our stories and our relationships.”

Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga reports on health disparities in access and health outcomes in both rural and urban areas.
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