SCOTCH PLAINS – Students at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School have started a petition calling for a ban to be placed on students and fans using Native American symbols.
The petition said that the call to ban Native American culture tied to its sports teams, the Raiders, is “not anti-Raider at all” and that it “is only anti-Racism.”
“The fact that derogatory logos are still being used, indigenous headdresses are still being culturally appropriated, and Raider Nation (the school’s fan base) doesn’t want to change it is concerning,” the petition on change.org, which was addressed to Principal David Heisey, said.
The goal of the petition, which has garnered 353 supporters as of Friday, “is to keep the raider name, but remove its ties from indigenous people all together.”
Matthew Skolar, the Scotch Plains-Fanwood sophomore who wrote the petition, said that it “is really disappointing that Raider Nation uses the old logo and mascots at games.”
He called the school’s old logo, which depicted a Native American in a headdress, “outdated” and “derogatory.”
“Almost all indigenous people are not raiders, so the logo does not make sense, and it is just a racial stereotype,” the petition read. “Please sign to remove racism from our school.”
Heisey, in response to the online petition, said he will remind students that the district does not condone the use of Native American symbols at sporting events or on campus.
Heisey said more than a decade after Scotch Plains-Fanwood altered its logo to eliminate images depicting Native American culture, some spectators have continued to wear or display the high school’s old logo at events.
“From time to time, students and even alumni will wear the Native American logo that we (previously) had,” Heisey said of the old logo, which was an outline of a Native American in a headdress.
“We as a school don’t support it. In some cases, there are some groups that still use it. That’s the issue that’s being raised here.”
NJ Advance Media stated that “students have been seen at games wearing feathered war bonnets” and displaying “other symbols of Native American culture.”
Heisey said Scotch Plains-Fanwood adopted a new logo in 2004 after the state Department of Education encouraged high schools statewide to refrain from using Native American symbols in their designs.
The school’s current logo is a geometric figure of a man holding a shield bearing the letter “R” in one hand and an ax in another. Heisey said the figure portrayed in the current logo “is not a Native American.”
Asked if he will send a letter to the high school’s more than 1,500 students regarding the use of Native American symbols, Heisey said, “It’s an issue I would address on an individual basis.”
“I will continue to say that I expect our students to act responsibly and cheer our team on in a positive fashion. If they are going to display a mascot, it should be the one that the school supports.”
None of the athletics teams uniforms currently bear the logo of the man with the ax and shield that the school district approved in 2004. The only place that logo appears in on the football scoreboard and the scoreboards in the two gymnasiums. The turf fields at the high school are emblazoned with the initials SPF and no logos appear on any of those fields.
The original petition calling for a change in the school’s fan culture has prompted another petition, also addressed to Heisey, asking for the reinstatement of the “arrow heads and chiefs” used as the logo in Scotch Plains and Fanwood “for generations.”
As of Friday, the opposing petition had more signatures than the original, totaling over 680.
“These logos are deeply embedded in the hearts of all community members as we bleed blue,” the petition said. “The Logos have lately been accused of hate and racism, but at the end of the day it is community spirit and just a logo with no hate intended.”
The petition went on to say that the “people crying for attention bringing race to a drawing is absolutely disgusting and the only thing keeping racism alive.”
It claimed that there is no hate for Native American culture and that “we all know the struggles and injustice they face, and faced for the past 100 years.” The petition insisted that the logos at issue at are “praising the culture and supporting diversity” and are “not presenting hate.”
Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School is not the only school with Native American culture incorporated into its logos. Rahway’s teams are known as the Indians and use feathers and other Native American symbols in its logos. Additionally, Piscataway’s sports teams are the Chiefs and Watchung Hills’ are the Warriors — both use symbols of Native American culture.
Last year, Keyport High School in Monmouth came under fire for its association of Native American symbols with its sports teams, the Red Raiders. Over the decades, colleges across the country have changed their sports teams’ names to not represent Native American culture.
Diamond Terrell, a senior at Scotch Plains-Fanwood who supports the petition, said, “Its important to realize that it’s not the concept of Raider Nation we are against, it is their logo, that had the association of the Raider name with Native American people. This logo was actually removed by the Board of Education in 2004, so it doesn’t make much sense as to why there is even attempts at trying to bring it back.”
She said that the issue at hand is not the current logo but the former logo resurfacing at sporting events.
“The word raider itself is defined as a ‘marauder’ or a ‘thief,'” she said. “When you place such a negative, hurtful connotation on the image of a Native American, you are indeed displaying cultural appropriation.”
Staff Writer Nick Muscavage: 908-243-6615; firstname.lastname@example.org