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The Battle of The Indianola "Indians"

Written by Ronnie James

On Monday August 23rd, Great Plains Action Society attended the Indianola school board meeting to discuss the team name of The Indianola Indians and the usage of Native imagery on school property and apparel, as well as taking public opinion on the topic. The board announced that they have been working with the very suspect Native American Guardian Association. This org reached out to the school and offered them an “assessment” on the use of the team name and gave them a good report and advised them to keep the name. We also understand that this org sells “curriculum” to schools. We have been told that this org has ties to the former owner of the Washington football team and has been approaching schools to find clients. Indianola is reportedly one of the first to agree to their program.

After initial discussion among the board, they voted on tabling the issue until after their Nov. 2021 election, where it will be brought back with the intention of an extensive process of public debate. During public comments, there was just one person who argued in favor of the name and imagery by claiming he spent a lot of time asking Natives in Oklahoma their opinion. Another commenter stated they needed more “facts”, while another said something similar but referred to Native “traits” as something they want all students to aspire to, but mentioned Natives in the past tense repeatedly.

When representatives of Great Plains Action Society were afforded time to speak, we brought a large packet of peer reviewed academic research demonstrating the harm that Indigenous mascots and imagery has on Native youth, which we left with the board. We also addressed the board’s intention to table the item. We reminded them that putting this issue aside so as not to harm their chances at reelection and playing politics with it is an act of white supremacy as these actions put their comfort first at the expense of the peoples that it actually affects.

We also offered to begin dialogues with local and national Native orgs and individuals that were not trying to sell them something. In response to one of the board’s reasons to table the item, they claimed that Covid was their highest priority. The room was crammed with 20 or more people (with less than 5% wearing masks) and their school system has no mask mandate. If they were tackling this issue in good faith while getting the school back into pre-Covid shape, then now is a perfect time to act on changing the team name so that when/if we return to normal, the school can start on a good footing working to end white supremacy.

Great Plains Action Society believes some of the school board is acting in good faith, but that they still do not view the name and imagery change as a priority. Based on social media comments, the town itself has a split of those extremely hostile to change and those that support it. We will continue to work with the Board of Education and our relatives that live in the town to keep this in the forefront and finally change the team name.

We will update at this situation progresses.

Photo credit: Jeff Kisling

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