School Board Decides To Bring Back Mascot
In a recent decision, the school board for the Southern York County School District in southern Pennsylvania voted 7-2 to reintroduce the American Indian mascot for Susquehannock High School.
The school’s traditional logo, known as the “Warrior Head,” features a depiction of a Native American in a feather headdress with a tomahawk and a pipe, honoring the Susquehannock Indian tribe. The move to revive the old logo comes two months after the district elected five new school board members, all of whom ran on pro-American Indian platforms.
The controversial decision follows a vote in 2020, in which the school board chose to eliminate the original logo, leading to community outrage. Critics argued that retiring the logo erased the area’s history, and local historians contradicted the school board’s diversity committee’s claim that the Susquehannock tribe never lived in the district’s area.
According to the Susquehanna National Heritage Area website, the Susquehannock people lived in large fortified towns along the Susquehanna River, including in Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, and York counties. Despite these historical connections, the school board at the time proceeded with the vote to remove the American Indian mascot, despite a petition against it that gathered 3,800 signatures.
The recent vote to bring back the old logo was led by seven board members who were elected after the 2020 decision. They overruled a new logo introduced in 2020, which featured a “W” with an arrow through it, symbolizing movement and a forward, upward direction in academics, athletics, and community.
The new Southern York County school board defied cancel culture to restore a logo celebrating Native American Indian heritage pic.twitter.com/iql6Gr7jmw
— Catherine Salgado (@CatSalgado32) January 23, 2024
Jennifer and Nathan Henkel, parents of three children and newly elected school board members, were among those who voted to reinstate the old logo. Jennifer Henkel expressed her opposition to erasing Native American culture, stating, “This movement was about erasing Native American culture, and I wasn’t about to stand for it.”
During the recent meeting, one community member emphasized the historical ties between the school and the Susquehanna land, stating, “This school was built on Susquehanna land. Those people lived here. You cannot rewrite history. You can’t cancel the past.”
The Native American Guardians Association, a group advocating for the restoration of Native names and imagery, supported the school board’s decision to bring back the logo. The association, which has also lobbied for the NFL’s Washington Commanders to revert to its former “Redskins” name, commended the school board as a role model and blueprint for other communities fighting for their Native names and imagery.
The revival of the American Indian mascot at Susquehannock High School reflects ongoing debates across the United States about the use of Native American imagery and symbols in educational institutions and sports teams.
The decision also highlights the role of community sentiment, historical considerations, and the dynamics of school board elections in shaping such outcomes.