Kids banish 'insulting' mascot

May 22, 1993|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff Writer

Even the youngest kids are politically correct nowadays.

Take, for instance, Columbia's Longfellow Elementary School students, who last week voted to change the school's mascot from an Indian to an eagle.

"Everybody is getting sick of the name Indians," explained 9-year-old Michelle Wilson, a third-grader. "People don't want to be known as Indians, which is offensive."

The idea for the switch came from Principal Allan Olchowski more than a year ago.

"We decided we wanted to adopt a mascot that was certainly a sensitive mascot, that was reflective of our own Longfellow roots," Mr. Olchowski said. "We, like so many other sports teams, were trying to be more sensitive to ethnic and racial groups."

The school's names for the different grades -- Omaha, Pawnee, Mohawk and Comanche -- won't change because they're considered proper names for Native American tribes, he said.

The PTA, teachers and especially students supported changing the Indian mascot early on -- this from a school whose namesake penned "Hiawatha," the tale of a Native American boy who grows up to be a hero.

"Indians is a good name, but it's insulting to the Native Americans," said 10-year-old Colin Donohue, a fourth-grader.

"Black people don't like to be called black people, and white people don't like to be called white people," he said. "The correct term is African-American, or Caucasian-American, or Native-American."

The school's estimated 400 students engaged in a spirited campaign to come up with the winning entry. Posters filled the 22-year-old school's hallways, media center, gym and cafeteria. Students and teachers had debated more than 40 symbols before narrowing them down to five.

Kindergartners chose the Longfellow Stars, while first- and second- graders picked the Longfellow Patriots. Third- and a portion of fourth- graders favored either the Longfellow Owls or Longfellow Poets.

"The school was named after Longfellow, he was a poet, and I like the name," said Marilynne Pabst, 9, who envisioned a scroll with lettering on it as a logo for the school's new T-shirts.

But it was the eagle, a bird of prey that poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote about, that was the choice by a 3-to-1 margin. A final tally won't be completed until Monday to allow absent students to vote.

"Eagles is a popular name," said Colin, who sat in the media center finishing up a book report. "At Centennial High School, you have eagles. You have an Eagles football team."

Younger students said they were swayed into voting for the eagle because they liked the campaign posters that fifth-graders put up.

"It was hard to decide at first," said second-grader Daniel Skidmore, 8. "I had to look around before I voted, and I saw more eagles signs. Plus, the eagle is the symbol of the United States bird."

Freckle-faced Daniel especially liked the slogan: "Vote for the Eagles and you can fly high with us."

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