Native Americans protest Keller High Indian mascot at school board meeting
Members of a Native American group want Keller High School to drop Indians as its mascot and will voice their concerns to the Keller school board Thursday night.
It’s not the first time groups have protested the mascot, which has been in place at Keller High for more than 75 years.
Members of the Society of Native Nations contend the use of Native Americans as mascots teaches children racism through racial stereotypes and causes psychological damage to native and non-native children, said Yolanda Blue Horse, a local member of the group.
“It affects all our children,” Blue Horse said.
She and members of her group held a protest in 2016 at AT&T Stadium, when the Dallas Cowboys were playing the Washington Redskins. The protest was called “The People vs. Racist Mascots.”
Blue horse said that she and other members of the Society of Native Nations, along with some Keller residents who she said support changing the mascot, will bring signs and speak during the public comment portion of the board meeting.
“We want to give them more information and education about why having a Native American mascot is not a good thing,” Blue Horse said.
Shellie Johnson, executive director of communications for the Keller school district, said officials have no comment at this time about the mascot.
“As always, individuals have an opportunity to speak to our Trustees during the open session portion of a Board meeting. During this time Board members listen, but by law, they are not permitted to respond to items not previously posted on the meeting agenda,” Johnson said.
Blue Horse said that her group’s goal is to “begin a dialogue” to talk about the mascot with trustees and community members.
There are more than 20 high schools in Texas that have mascots tied to Native Americans, from the Booker Kiowas to the Donna Redskins.
Keller Indian history
The Keller Indian mascot traces back more than 75 years, according to Keller historian, author and a former Keller High teacher Joyce Gibson Roach.
The Keller school board formed a football team in 1936 and soon adopted the Indian mascot.
Roach said that several Native American tribes lived in the area during the mid-1800s when white settlers moved into Northeast Tarrant County, with Comanches most often mentioned in historic accounts.
Keller Middle School uses Comanches as their mascot.
One local legend is that Mount Gilead Baptist Church in Keller was burned down by “an Indian raiding party” in 1859, according to information on the Old Town Keller Foundation’s website, otkf.org.
Many early settlers in the Keller area wrote about encounters with Indians, and so naming the school team after them made sense, Roach said.
“I think it was the logical thing to do because they certainly were present in the area,” Roach said.
For several decades, Keller High used a “K” logo with a spear going through it and the slogan “Fear the Spear.” In the last several years, the school has used a K with the headdress of a Native American Chief.
The Keller High football team continues to wear a spear on their helmets.
‘A way of life’
The Indian theme runs through the school’s drill team, known as the Indianettes, who wear headbands, braids and fringed costumes. An intricate tile mosaic mural of a chief was carefully taken apart and moved from the old entrance to the school cafeteria during campus renovations in 2016. The Indian head logo is prominently featured on the renovated building’s exterior and in the foyer.
At times, the school has had students portray as Native Americans in fringed leather and feathers, and sometimes on horseback.
“When I was teaching, we tried to emulate the best of Indian culture,” Roach said. “We didn’t do anything to demean anyone.”
Don Blevins, a life-long Keller resident, member of the champion 1957 Keller football team and now in his 53rd year running the clock at Keller High football games, said he’s never heard anything negative about the mascot in the community.
“I had never really thought about it being offensive or a negative type thing at all,” Blevins said. “It’s just become a way of life.”