First a reminder about today’s Indigenous-led forum discussing why mascots in Iowa are harmful and perpetuate white supremacy. Though Iowa has 27 racist “Indian” mascots still being used, they will spotlight the issue in Mason City where white supremacists have organized to protest the rightful retirement of the Mohawk mascot.
My Mutual Aid mentor and friend Ronnie James has been working on the use of the team name of The Indianola Indians and the usage of Native imagery on school property and apparel. Knowing I live in Indianola, Ronnie asked me to take some photos related to this which I was glad to do. He wrote an excellent article about the Indianola school board meeting he attended in August published by the Great Plains Action Society that he is part of.
After initial discussion among the board, they voted on tabling the issue until after their Nov. 2021 election, where it will be brought back with the intention of an extensive process of public debate. During public comments, there was just one person who argued in favor of the name and imagery by claiming he spent a lot of time asking Natives in Oklahoma their opinion. Another commenter stated they needed more “facts”, while another said something similar but referred to Native “traits” as something they want all students to aspire to, but mentioned Natives in the past tense repeatedly.
When representatives of Great Plains Action Society were afforded time to speak, we brought a large packet of peer reviewed academic research demonstrating the harm that Indigenous mascots and imagery has on Native youth, which we left with the board. We also addressed the board’s intention to table the item. We reminded them that putting this issue aside so as not to harm their chances at reelection and playing politics with it is an act of white supremacy as these actions put their comfort first at the expense of the peoples that it actually affects.
We also offered to begin dialogues with local and national Native orgs and individuals that were not trying to sell them something. In response to one of the board’s reasons to table the item, they claimed that Covid was their highest priority. The room was crammed with 20 or more people (with less than 5% wearing masks) and their school system has no mask mandate. If they were tackling this issue in good faith while getting the school back into pre-Covid shape, then now is a perfect time to act on changing the team name so that when/if we return to normal, the school can start on a good footing working to end white supremacy.
Great Plains Action Society believes some of the school board is acting in good faith, but that they still do not view the name and imagery change as a priority. Based on social media comments, the town itself has a split of those extremely hostile to change and those that support it. We will continue to work with the Board of Education and our relatives that live in the town to keep this in the forefront and finally change the team name.
The Battle of the Indianola Indians
Debate over the use of Native American-related mascots spans nationwide, with leaders of athletic programs from youth to professional sports grappling over their logos and team names. The Washington Football Team and the Cleveland Guardians, two professional teams that attracted national attention for their use of Indigenous-related mascots, decided in the past two years to remove Native American-related imagery and language from their branding.
Also this fall, the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa — or the Meskwaki Nation — in late October called on 66 Iowa schools to retire their mascots.
Mason City schools’ removal of ‘Mohawks’ leaves 27 Iowa high schools with Indigenous-themed mascots by Alyssa Hertel, Des Moines Register, Oct 30, 2021
A Special Message and Invitation on School Mascots
Greetings Iowa school leaders, school board members, and community members:
We, the undersigned Tribal Nations and local and national Native organizations, call upon you – the 66 K-12 schools in the state of Iowa with Native “themed” school mascots – to retire your mascots.
Sac & Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa
12/12/2021 at 5:00 pm Central
Watch on YouTube at
Watch on GPAS’s FB Page at
Photos I took of the imagery of Indianola schools.