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A Turning Point: The push to retire Native American mascots in schools

Several Northeast Ohio schools still have the mascots.

CLEVELAND — The National Congress of American Indians reports Ohio has the most schools with Native American mascots of any state. Research from the Ohio High School Athletic Association shows that includes 78 high schools.

In light of the Cleveland Guardians name change, two Democratic representatives introduced a resolution in July -- encouraging all Ohio's schools to retire Native American mascots. 

And this past August, the Cuyahoga Heights School District voted unanimously to retire the district's controversial sports team nickname, the same one the Washington Football Team stopped using last year. The name was immediately removed, as was the logo. The district has not named a formal replacement.

Cleveland’s baseball team took a major step by changing its name to the Guardians – the deal officially going through just this week. But around the state there are still hundreds of schools that have team names and mascots considered offensive to Native Americans. 

The change was praised by the Lake Erie Native American Council in July. But even then, the group called on 200 schools across Ohio with offensive mascots to follow suit.

"There is a lot more work that needs to be done," said Chris Begay, Chair of the Committee of 500 Years of Dignity and Resistance. "It's just the tip of the iceberg. Most communities are acknowledging that it’s time. It’s time to move forward, it’s time to let go."

For example, Copley High School's teams are known as the Indians. In 2020, students there held protests calling for a name change and also requested that more diversity initiatives take place in the district.

In Parma, where the senior high school team is known as the Redmen, there have been public debates about making a switch. A majority of people at a 2020 virtual meeting supported choosing something new.

So far, the name and mascots in those two districts are still in tact. Copley's superintendent says its diversity committee will review the topic in the near future, but a change likely won't happen this school year. Discussions are also ongoing in Parma.

But hope is not lost. Begay says the fact that conversation of change are happening is progress.

"For years, me growing up and being a part of this movement, there were so many times where it wasn't that way. And that is really good to hear and see," he said.

You can watch the entire A Turning Point show below:

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