Got an opinion on whether the Fulton City School District should use a Native American head logo and use Red Raiders as a nickname? You’re likely to get a chance to express that opinion soon.
A committee studying the issue reviewed the first draft of a community survey recently.
Superintendent of Schools Bill Lynch said the survey is likely to ask for some demographic information, such as whether the person answering the survey is a Fulton alumnus or lives in the district. It also may ask about whether the logo and nickname contribute to community spirit. He said it is also likely to ask the key question: should a Native American head become the official and permanent logo of the school district.
School districts across the state came under heavy pressure from the state Education Department beginning in 2003 to change nicknames, logos and mascots that could be seen as offensive to Native Americans. Many districts made changes, including Central Square, which swapped the Redmen nickname for RedHawks. Others kept their names and icons, including the Weedsport Warriors.
Fulton studied the issue at the time and heard from some Native American groups that the name and logo were offensive to them as they played on stereotypes related to skin color and violence, officials present for those meetings said.
At recent meetings where the issue has been discussed, some people have said that they’ve mentioned the issue to a Native American friend and that person was not offended.
So far, the committee studying the issue has not heard from Native Americans but has heard from members of the community who are adamant that the Native American icon and nickname are intended to honor the area’s original inhabitants, the tribes of the Iroquois nation, and should not be changed.
District officials have searched district records and can find only one official logo — a red block “F”. They believe the Native American head logo began in an unofficial way, perhaps as something created by merchants to sell memorabilia. Lynch said that if one looks back on district records and publications, the Native American head logo has changed over the years.
The logo shows a Native American man wearing a cap called a gustoweh. The arrangement of the feathers in a gustoweh serve as a signal to others of the tribe of the wearer. Each Iroquois tribe has its own configuration. The Native American head logo often seen here shows a gustoweh with two feathers hanging down. None of the six nations of the Iroquois wear their gustowehs in that configuration.
“If we go with the Indian head, we will need to make sure it’s done tastefully and respectfully,” Lynch said, adding that it’s too soon to tell what recommendation the committee will make.
The committee meets again this Thursday at 6:30 p.m.