Talawanda drops Native American mascot in close vote

Talawanda Schools will no longer be represented by a Native American mascot.

Not after a long school board meeting Monday evening and a close vote saw the Oxford-based school system switch its mascot name from the Talawanda Braves to Talawanda Brave.

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The 3-2 vote by the Talawanda Board of Education came after months of discussions and arguments concerning whether the historical mascot name was an inappropriate reference to Native Americans.

Supporters of Native American rights and heritage had publicly argued the use of Braves by the school district was disrespectful and psychologically detrimental to descendants of America’s first inhabitants.

The board reviewed committees established to investigate the issue, which at times has drawn large and impassioned crowds — arguing both pro and con for the mascot change — to meetings.

“Last evening the board allowed community members and individuals representing several Native American groups share their thoughts and concerns. It was a long and difficult evening,” Talawanda Schools spokeswoman Holli Morrish told the Journal-News.

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Around 11 p.m., Morrish said, “a motion was made to change the name from Braves to Talawanda Brave, and to stop the future purchase of any new apparel, items, equipment, etc,. with the Indian head logo.”

“The vote was 3-2. Each board member shared heartfelt thoughts and feelings about how long they have thought and worried and studied on this topic, that has been difficult and emotional for many community members, and what ultimately led to their decision to vote the way they did,” she said.

“All of the board members were united in their desire to do what is best for students in Talawanda, and impressed upon everyone that finding ways to come together is important,” Morrish said.

ExploreCLOSER LOOK: Should Ohio schools ban Indian nicknames? Group asks state for help.

Talawanda now joins the Oxford-based Miami University in switching from a Native American mascot name — the Miami Redskins to the RedHawks — in large part due to lobbying from Native American advocates locally and out of state.

Native American athletic mascots have been a subject of controversy since at least 1968, when the National Congress for American Indians began campaigning for their removal from professional sports.

Since then, many other high schools and colleges have replaced their Native American mascots with equivalents not based on real-life groups. The Miami University Redskins became RedHawks in 1996; the Stanford Indians became the Stanford Cardinal in 1981.

In Talawanda Schools, the Native American logo appears in district communications, such as the athletic department’s Twitter account, and on a tower holding the high school’s victory bell at the football stadium.

Morrish said the logo changes to signage and other school items “will be phased in” with meetings on the those changes starting next month.

Bob Ratterman contributed to this report.

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