On February 13, we brought you this story about a school district in Cooperstown, New York that voted to change its nickname from 'Redskins.' As a gesture of thanks, the Oneida Indian Nation has offered to pay for new uniforms for the school, Cooperstown Central, after it chooses the new nickname.
"You have announced a standard that recognizes that mascots which are known to dehumanize and disrespect any race of mankind have no place in our schools, or our great country," wrote Oneida Nation Representative and CEO Ray Halbritter. "We understand that your courageous decision also comes with a financial consequence and, unfortunately, potential backlash from those who somehow claim that ethnic stereotyping is a victimless crime."
Cooperstown is most famous for being the home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, as well as being the hometown of James Fenimore Cooper, author of Last of the Mohicans.
According to the Utica Observer-Dispatch, the school will solicit input from the community before making the change. C.J. Hebert, the district superintendent, said the school will accept Halbritter's offer and that the likely cost of the name change will be between $5,000 and $10,000.
Here is the letter from Halbritter:
Dear Cooperstown Central Middle and High School Students:
Shekoli. Greetings of peace from the people of the Oneida Indian Nation. We wish to express our deep appreciation and respect for your courageous decision to end using the word "redskin" as the school mascot. We understand that such decisions are not always easy to make.
The idea that students would undertake such a thoughtful and compassionate action speaks well for the way Cooperstown is enlightening its youth, and speaks well for the future of your community. Your actions take an additional significance, as well, due to the proximity of your school to the institutional grounds of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, where players from athletics teams named "Braves" and "Indians" are regularly celebrated. You have announced a standard that recognizes that mascots which are known to dehumanize and disrespect any race of mankind have no place in our schools, or our great country.
We understand that your courageous decision also comes with a financial consequence and, unfortunately, potential backlash from those who somehow claim that ethnic stereotyping is a victimless crime. We therefore wish to honor your courage and assist your transition to a new, more inclusive mascot. The Oneida Nation would like to lend its support and provide a donation to your school to help offset the necessary costs of changing mascots. We would be honored to help your athletic teams purchase new jerseys that reflect your new team name.
Additionally, we were so moved by your actions that we are now working with This Week From Indian Country Today, a weekly magazine covering Indian Country in the United States, to organize other Indian nations in creating a fund for the other schools to follow Cooperstown' leadership by removing their ethnically insensitive mascots.
Two centuries ago, during the founding of this country, the Oneida people fought alongside the colonists here in New York during America's War for Independence. We were America's first allies. The spirit of what both our ancestors fought and, at times, perished for, is honored by your actions, and you can reflect with great pride in knowing that the bond of honor and respect formed between our people centuries ago has not been lost or forgotten simply by the passage of time.
All New Yorkers can be rightly proud of the students of Cooperstown Central Middle and High School for your leadership, and for using your platform as the home of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame to stand up for something bigger than yourselves. Thank you for seeing that racially insensitive caricatures have consequences. And thank you for being a message to the rest of the country that says we can still honor our schools and our sports teams without dishonoring our country's races, cultures and shared heritage.
Na ki' wa,