6th Grader Seeks Help to Change Local High School Mascot

Shawnee Mission, KS — Eleven year old Halley Vincent is asking the Haskell Indian Nations University (HINU) community to help petition her local school board to change the mascot of Shawnee Mission North High School. Vincent sees the school’s mascot “The Shawnee Indians” as problematic and thinks now is the ‘ideal time’ to change it.

“The Shawnee people did not wear the Lakota style headdress shown on the Shawnee Mission North mascot,” says Vincent whose step father is Lakota (Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe). She says there are a lot of reasons to remove appropriated Native mascots, one of which is the history of the area’s three religious Indian mission labor schools. Vincent says, “[The] Shawnee Mission School District doesn’t acknowledge any of that real history. Even though it’s in their name.” She plans to petition the district’s school board on November 16th. 

“Covid is an IDEAL time to change jerseys or remove offensive Indian themed items…” says Vincent, but the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t the only reason she is asking for change now. As a sixth grader, Vincent and her mother have talked about High School, and if Shawnee Mission North isn’t in the process of changing the mascot by then, Vincent may not attend her mother’s alma mater. Even more pressing, Vincent says she would like to see change before Shawnee Mission North’s 100 year anniversary in 2022.

Vincent has received a lot of support from her family and community for her activism. Her mother Alisha said, “Those are HER talents in this world. Writing and memorizing and noticing when people need to pay attention to something. She’s a bridge.”

Glena Wallace, Chief of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe said, “I am touched that a young person can understand this when older adults can’t.  I congratulate this young girl and wish her success in her efforts to eliminate the use of Indian imagery as mascots.”

To help accomplish her goals, Vincent is asking the community to write letters to Heather Ousley, Board President of the Shawnee Mission School District explaining the harm of the mascot and asking for change. Vincent would like to present the letters together herself at the board meeting and is requesting that they be directed to Heather Ousley but addressed on the envelope to Halley Vincent, 6201 Nieman Rd, Unit #3354, Shawnee, KS 66203.


Photo and interview permissions granted by parent Alisha Vincent.

4 Comments

  1. I married a Lakota woman and learned for the first time that American schools teach an edited version of history that leaves out the pain and suffering white people inflicted on the First Nations. Misusing the culture and traditions of Native Americans to glorify sports teams is just another insult directed to humble and defeat a proud and noble race. Find another name for your school team, school and community. The Shawnee were forced to leave their eastern homelands and after decades of establishing farms and ranches in eastern Kansas, white settlers drove them out again and seized their property. The Natives were forced to move to Oklahoma – Indian Territory – to end another long Trail of Tears. Have the courage to right the wrongs of the past and restore respect for the Shawnee People! Thank you Halley.

    1. Philip, I don’t know if you have Instagram or Twitter or Facebook but I did a five minute video about how our school or the town I live in came to be named after the Shawnee. Nobody ever talks about suffering that’s for sure. And they usually talk about the mission schools that they forced native kids into like they were some kind of a good and healing thing or something. In my video I also talked about a super short version of how people that used to live all over the eastern part of the US ended up being made to come here in the first place! And then we’re going to name a town after them? And then we’re gonna make them go to Oklahoma and name another town? It’s pretty crazy stuff. The board meeting last night went really well and I did have many letters from people including a whole school group of Ojibwe children. But I would like to receive more letters and if you have the time I think you already have written enough here to make a pretty good one! So if you are interested please would you take just a minute to write me a letter so that I can send it to the board for their next meeting in December. They announced last night that they will be working on policy language which just basically means yes they are going to go forward to get rid of native mascots and change some of the elementary school names also. On the downside though they also said that there are five people listed to speak at the next meeting and I’m thinking some of those are people that are going to try to argue why we should keep it. So I really need to have as many letters as possible. And why does this public school matter? Well all of the public schools that do this really matter… But this is a really big school district and when they make a big change like this there’s gonna be lots of other smaller schools that make the change. So thank you so much for caring about what I’m doing. Wopila! Hal

  2. Reading this in California, I would like to support this work and petition, now and beyond the board meeting – does anyone know if there’s a website, or other way to offer support / donate? (I’m not sure what date the meeting is so it might be too late to send a letter, or if indeed a letter from outside the community would be useful/welcome)? Best of luck to you and yours, Halley Vincent.

    1. May, Hi in California! I’m so glad you want to support this. I received a really good batch of letters yesterday and made packets for all of the board members in the school superintendent. Also I made one for the diversity, equity, and inclusion director. But I’m still excepting letters until December 1 because there will be a second board meeting to talk about this. There’s not a website that focuses on this. There’s a private Facebook group of people that are participating. If you contact me on Facebook I can send you an invitation. I’m @pawsupkc if you do a search. Also right now alumni are sending thousands of postcards to taxpayers in the school district area. The picture on the postcard he does a bunch of images by photographer Shane Balkowitsch. I really like it because they are all recent pictures of people from all different tribes. Native kids in football uniforms, Deb Haaland is in there, elders, moms with their children. I like that they picked these photos and that that’s what people are going to receive in the mail. The other side of the postcard gives email addresses for all of the board members and asks people to take action by contacting them and telling them that native mascot to wrong. I know that alumni group is looking for postage help. They had to buy the mailing list, by the postcards, so I know they could use that help. If that something you’re Able to help with. But really even your letter is a big deal. It’s OK that you do not live here. Every time we go in and out of school three native people like they are cartoons and it’s no big deal to have them on the side of the building, it hurts near people no matter where they live. If you have experienced racism or hurt and pain because of people deciding things about you without ever even knowing your culture, I think that counts! I’d be so happy to have a letter from you. Hugs, Hal (smntruthsquad@gmail.com)

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