The Spokane Public Schools board is expected on Wednesday night to approve a name change for Sheridan Elementary School and begin finding new mascots for North Central High School and Garry Middle School.
Stakeholders at Sheridan and North Central began the process several months ago, while the pending change at Garry is the result of legislation in Olympia which forbids the use of Native American mascots in most schools.
The legislation, SHB 1356, was signed last month by Gov. Jay Inslee. It prohibits Native American names, symbols or images as public school mascots, logos or team names, unless approved by local tribes.
Even before that, North Central students, administrators and community members had pushed for a reconsideration of the 100-year-old mascot.
“I’ve heard many people say that the mascot honors us as Native people,” said Heather Lemrey, a member of the Colville Confederated Tribes during a public forum on April 27. “It does not honor us. It disrespects our culture.”
At Sheridan, Principal Larry Quisano has worked since last summer to urge a change.
The East Central neighborhood school was named in 1908 for Gen. Philip Sheridan, who was a Civil War hero but also the man associated with the phrase “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”
Sheridan also encouraged the slaughter of Plains buffalo, depriving Native Americans of a major food source and forcing them onto reservations.
“Words matter, and whether we listen to our kids matters,” Quisano said during a public forum last week. “Right now I believe is the right time to make things right.”
If a change is approved for a school name or mascot, a new process – including staff, student and community input – will begin to find a replacement.
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