Mascot change a good choice for Aptakisic
Updated: April 30, 2012 8:09AM
Aptakisic Junior High School has made the right decision in changing its school mascot from Indians to Eagles.
The school unveiled the change Friday in a school pep assembly, following a vote in which students chose the new mascot.
Aptakisic students have been Indians since the school’s opening in September 1956. Times, and social consciousness, have changed since. The school did well to recognize that and choose a new name.
Some may decry this decision, pointing to tradition, long cherished memories, school spirit and the like. These are often arguments raised by supporters of other Indian mascots, including the University of Illinois Fighting Illini.
The mascot in this sense is part of the fabric of what makes the institution, a way to honor the area’s past, as well as the people who once populated this area, before the United States expanded its reach from the East Coast colonies into the heart of the continent.
The mascot is part of the memory graduates hold of their time on campus. In the case of the University of Illinois, they identify themselves with the school as Fighting Illini, and look forward to gametime ceremonies involving the mascot.
Aptakisic, by retaining the name of the chief of the Potawatomi tribe that once lived here, does this honor, as well. Naming a school building after people of great historical significance is also a long-held tradition to be cherished.
But retaining a mascot that so often breeds hurt in people whose lands and heritage were stripped from them does no honor. Instead, it is a painful reminder of what has been co-opted from them. To have lost that piece of their history, with no way to take it back, is a great harm.
Sensitivity, in instances such as these, is often spat out as a dirty word by those who support retaining Indian mascots. But it is because of their sensitivity over history and those victimized by others that Aptakisic made this change, one that is necessary and appropriate.
Supporters might also point to other schools that use cultural icons as team mascots. Most frequently pointed to are the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The Florida State Seminoles is another example.
In the case of Florida State, the Seminole tribe sanctions the use of its name as a school mascot. And if people of Irish descent like the idea of a leprechaun prancing about a football field on Saturday afternoons, then there’s no harm involved.
But American Indians have, quite frequently, voiced their objection to the use of Indian, as well as several other Indian symbols, as team mascots. All too often, the objections fall on deaf ears and get brushed aside.
These symbols and names were taken without anyone’s sanction. In some cases, no one remains of the tribes whose names are used; there is no one left to make the case. Rather than use that as an excuse to retain a mascot, this should be seen as part of the shame of what happened to American Indians during the United States’ expansionist period.
Aptakisic administrators and students made the right choice, something the community ought to stand behind. Years from now, the mascot will be forgotten. The name Aptakisic will live on, and the school has done the man a greater honor in making the change that it has.