Keller Citizen

Racism or harmless tradition? Keller High’s mascot under fire by Native American group

Native Americans protest Keller High Indian mascot at school board meeting

Society of Native Nations representatives urged trustees at Keller ISD school board meeting to change the Keller High Indian mascot. They say its disrespectful and psychologically damaging to Native American and non-Native American children.
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Society of Native Nations representatives urged trustees at Keller ISD school board meeting to change the Keller High Indian mascot. They say its disrespectful and psychologically damaging to Native American and non-Native American children.

Mittie Lois Fort Fadick vowed she would return before the school board to voice her opinion on the use of an Indian as Keller High School’s mascot.

“I said then that I would be back, but I’m not coming alone,” said Fadick, whose son graduated from Keller High.

A Native American, she said some board members laughed at her when discussing her concerns about 15 years earlier.

On Thursday, Fadick was joined by members of the Society of Native Nations and they asked the Keller school board to remove the Indian mascot from Keller High.

Another group of residents urged board members to keep the tradition alive.

While the discourse was mostly civil, heated words were exchanged between members of the two groups after the board meeting.

The Keller Indian mascot goes back to at least 1940. Schools with mascots some deem culturally insensitive have been under fire more than ever in recent years. Richland High School retained the Rebel mascot in 2015 despite a lawsuit and pressures to change, although the school dropped the Confederate flag as a symbol in 1993.

While there are more than 20 high schools in Texas that use Indian-themed mascots, some have changed. The Houston school district changed mascots at several schools in 2014, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Yolonda Blue Horse, a North Texas representative of the San Antonio-based Society of Native Nations, said the mascot promotes a racist stereotype and “a change is long overdue.”

The society organized the protest in hopes of “starting a dialogue” with district officials, she said. Its members spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, along with several people who supported keeping the mascot. By law, trustees cannot discuss anything from public comments during a meeting that is not already on the agenda.

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Yolonda Blue Horse, co-founder of the Society of Native Nations, spoke during the public comment portion of the Keller ISD school board meeting Thursday. Joyce Marshall jlmarshall@star-telegram.com

After the meeting, Keller district officials had no comment on the mascot issue.

“Having such mascots has a negative effect on Native American children. We already struggle with who we are,” Blue Horse said. “When our children see themselves as caricatures or other people dressing up as them, it doesn’t give them a good sense of who they are.”

Garett Maupin, a Fort Worth resident and Native American, said she was deeply offended when she came to run in a Keller cross country meet years ago and saw parents and students dressed as Indians.

“Why would you allow a non-Native student to dress up and make fun of our culture? I don’t want my children to be bullied. I want students to be educated about Native Americans,” Mark Madrid, a Keller district parent and Native American said.

Several Keller residents and Keller High grads spoke in favor of keeping the mascot.

“We grew up proud of our mascot,” Terry Hughes Owens, a 1982 Keller grad, said. “We never made a joke of it. We never saw it as a caricature.”

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Teri Hughes Owens spoke during the public comment portion of the Keller ISD school board meeting Thursday asking trustees to keep the Keller High Indian mascot. She is a member of the Keller High School class of 1982. Joyce Marshall jlmarshall@star-telegram.com

A petition on change.org, “Keep Keller High mascot,” had more than 9,400 signatures as of Friday morning. A competing petition, “Change Keller High mascot” had almost 1,700 signatures.

Keller parent Susan Patrick said she would like to see officials carefully explore the issue with the community.

“We want to set a good example about how to handle a difficult situation,” Patrick said. “Can’t we just listen, learn from both sides and communicate?”

Dozens of Keller parents and Keller High students attended the meeting to listen to the comments.

“You don’t have a mascot for everyone to look down on,” parent Lisa Allison said. “You have a mascot because you’re proud of it.”

Keller High juniors Hannah Bender and Emily Casey said that they were open to the idea of changing mascots, or at the very least, changing the way it is portrayed.

“I’ve definitely heard Native Americans and students of color express concerns with the mascot,” Casey said. “Prancing around in a headdress creates a caricature of what Native American culture is.”

This report contains information from the Star-Telegram archives.

Sandra J. Engelland: 817-390-7323, @SandraEngelland

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