On Nov. 17, 2022, all the school districts in New York received a letter from the New York State Education Department and the Senior Deputy Commissioner of Education about the school district’s use of Native American logos, mascots, and names. It stated that districts must commit to replacing their Native American team name, logo, and/or imagery by the end of the 2022-23 school year.
The name change, as a result the new regulations, will be costly, since it means rebranding for the schools, buying all new sports uniforms, changing letterhead stationery, signs, publicity logos and rebranding each school having a name such as “Braves” or “Indians.” Many community members simply don’t want to change the name, as it represents a sentimental attachment to the school or a romanticized image that was never meant to be offensive to Native Americans when first adopted.
The pronouncement in November caught many by surprise, after decades-old use of mascots’ name “The Indians,” “The Braves” “The Raiders” or “Warriors,” all of which are now considered by the State Advisory Committee to be “offensive .” The November letter spoke of new regulations coming out, so schools with mascots with names or logos that echoed indigenous tribes had to move quickly. Some, like Canandaigua, put out surveys and nominated committees to study the issue; Canandaigua submitted a request to rename their team with an adjective (brave) rather than a noun (braves) and a few in the state have not yet come to a decision on whether to comply. Salamanca School District, is trying to work with the Seneca nation to be able to keep their name “The Warriors.” Other schools, even those from Indian-derived names such as Niskayuna, changed from the Red Warriors to the Silver Warriors, to comply with the state Education mandate.
Among the area schools who will have to look at different logos and names for their mascots are Avon (The Braves), and Caledonia (which changed the name from “Red Raiders” to just “Raiders”, and changed the logo to a wolf). Canandaigua submitted a change in name from the noun “Braves” to the adjective “Brave” to go with their logo, but the State Education Department will not accept it.
Red Jacket, a school in Shortsville, NY is named after a famous Seneca Indian, Red Jacket. Their Superintendent announced that although the school will not be required to change its name, it will be retiring both the Indian mascot and “Indians” team name.