R is for Respect

Below is an excerpt of a Courageously Concerned Letter I wrote to my local board of education…

I’d like to take just a few minutes to talk about the conversation of “redskins” and its predominance in Social Circle City Schools.  

From the student of the month recognition by the Board, to the passwords students use, to its visibility in the high school gym, to it being printed on face masks, jerseys, and sprit-wear, to it being the mascot of our middle and high school athletes, the word “redskin” is in the forefront. 

I am proud to say that I am a part of the movement calling for the renaming of our mascot. My family and I have vocally expressed our concerns regarding the mascot name. I am excited that others are ready to have this conversation. 

Quickly, I want to make you aware that the r-word (as some Native Americans call it) has a history marred in blood. Contrary to Western beliefs, the term “redskin” is not a term used to celebrate Native peoples. It was/is historically used to refer to the scalps used to provide proof that a Native person was indeed killed. 

For example, the 1755 Phips Proclamation was issued in the then Province of Massachusetts Bay. It was a statement against the Native Nation, Penobscot (viewed as non-British allies and rebels and traitors of King George II). The Proclamation stated “…For every Scalp of such Female Indian or Male Indian under the Age of twelve years Shall be killed and brought in as Evidence of their being killed as aforesaid, Twenty pounds.”

These “scalps” were often referred to as “redskins”. Furthermore, in 1863 the town of Winona, Minnesota released this statement regarding Native American peoples in the land: “The reward for dead Indians has been increased to $200 for every red-skin sent to purgatory.” In 2019 that amount would equate to approximately $4,209.50 

Moreover, in 2015 California banned high schools from using the r-word as a nickname/mascot. At least 49 schools in 20 states still use this term… Social Circle City Schools is one of them. 

I must be honest; in the past I once proudly chanted and wore “redskins” on my shirts. Once you know do better you must do better. Some state that Social Circle honors Native People with the r-word, but are we truly honoring the Native American legacy if we use a term that has such a “bloody” history? No. 

In closing, we are in a shift. We need to remove the “redskin” and replace it with Respect. Respect to the Native Tribes, the Cherokee Nation and the Muscogee/Creek Tribe, that once inhabited Walton County and Social Circle. Respect for our students and teachers to create an authentic acceptance of diversity. Respect for realizing that some traditions are stoked in misconceptions and mistellings…

(If we continue to perpetuate the notion that the r-word is a “tradition” what other false, offensive traditions have we normalized?)

Attached are some of my sources and additional articles to read that challenge us all to (re)evaluate history and (re)evaluate our responsibility in presenting the (unfiltered) truth. 

I look forward to continuing this conversation soon.

If you would like to take part in this change/movement, sign the petition here.

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