South Bend school’s Indian mascot topic of talks

South Bend, Indiana (AP) September 2010

A Native American historian who objects to the Indian mascot nickname used by St. Joseph’s High School will meet with Catholic diocese administrators to air his concerns, a diocese spokesman said.

The diocese’s school superintendent, the principal of the school in South Bend and historian Brian Collier met Sept. 10. The South Bend Tribune reported that the meeting will be “private and preliminary,” according to Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend spokesman Vince LaBarbera.

Collier, who has two children attending Catholic school, said he didn’t think the Indian nickname and mascot was appropriate for the 800-student high school.

“I think you can’t have a disaffected group of people as your mascot,” he said.

Collier said he was pleased that school and diocesan officials had agreed to meet with him. One reason for his objections: signs held by fans of opposing sports teams.

“They have signs that say ‘Kill the Indians,’ ‘Scalp the Indians,’“ said Collier, who works for the Alliance for Catholic Education at the University of Notre Dame.

Critics have argued that naming sports teams after Indians, a historically disenfranchised race of people, is demeaning, and even racist, and that the practice should stop because many tribes oppose it.

The NCAA in 2005 deemed the use of “Indians” as hostile and abusive and prohibited the use of Native American nicknames, mascots and imagery in postseason competition.

The Indiana High School Athletic Association’s website lists seven other high schools in the state that use the “Indians” nickname and nine that use “Braves.”

St. Joseph’s sophomore Ryan Geoppinger said he wasn’t surprised the issue of the mascot is being brought up.

“It makes sense, because colleges are changing,” he said. “But it’s a shame. It’s a tradition.”

Collier said he didn’t want to disrupt St. Joseph’s $35 million fundraising drive toward building a new school at the former downtown site of St. Joseph Regional Medical Center.

In fact, he said, “It’s a terrible time to talk about it because of the new school.”