On Nov. 10, the Kansas School Board voted 7-1 with two abstentions to pass a resolution. They recommend that schools drop their Native American (“Indian”) themed mascots. This came upon the recommendation of a commission, including representatives from four federally-recognized tribes with significant numbers here in Kansas. The resolution is not tied to funding or accreditation. Even so, several school districts including Atchison, Wichita, and Shawnee Mission had already stopped using such mascots, and more name changes are under consideration.
Our region’s highest-profile team with such a name is of course the Kansas City Chiefs. Though they play in Missouri, the Chiefs Kingdom (as they call it) extends well into Kansas. The team name, stadium name, and arrowhead logo all reference Native Americans, and so do fan rituals such as the “war cry” and the “tomahawk chop.” With other sports teams having dumped such names, protests by local Native American groups to change the name are growing. A deep dive shows just how complicated such decisions can be.
The Chiefs are named for former Kansas City, Mo., Mayor H. Roe Bartle, who was instrumental in moving the former Dallas Texans football team to KC. Bartle earned his nickname “The Chief” by founding a Boy Scout Camp near Osceola, Mo., which is now named for him. He also founded a regional Scouting organization with the now politically incorrect name, Tribe of Mic-O-Say, which has tens of thousands of fiercely loyal members and supporters, mostly in Missouri and Kansas. Many alumni and adult leaders have given generously of their time and money over the years to support the organization.