Respecting the Indian

To the Editor:

I was dismayed to read that voters in the school district of Onteora, N.Y., turned out in record numbers to elect a slate to the school board that ran on a platform to keep a tomahawk-wielding Indian as the mascot for their high school sports teams (news article, May 18).

Districts across the country continue to ignore the damage they cause and the pain they inflict upon Native American children. Instead of learning about the culture and history of the Schaghticoke and other tribes, children are taught the tomahawk chop. Indian war dances are commonplace at sports events.

Depictions of mighty warriors of the past emphasize a tragic part of our history, when we had to go to war to survive. This image overshadows the strength and beauty of our society in time of peace. Indian culture puts high value on peace and views life as a spiritual journey.

The message sent by the voters of the Onteora district must be viewed for what it is: uncaring and racist.

Chief, Schaghticoke Tribal Nation
Kent, Conn., May 18, 2000

(text of May 25, 2000 New York Times edition Letter To The Editor)