By Mark Rountree Sports Editor

Should schools use American Indian names as mascots?

The National College Athletic Association recently said no.

The organization, which oversees college sports, voted to ban the use of American Indian mascots by sports teams for its postseason tournaments.

Several high schools in northwest Oklahoma, including the Enid Plainsmen, Wakita Warriors, Shattuck Indians, Waukomis Chiefs, Okarche Warriors and Cherokee Chiefs, feature Native American mascots or nicknames, but administrators said those nicknames honor the area's native people.

"A warrior or a chief is a person held in high regard," said Wakita principal Kelly Childress. "I don't think people of Native American cultures have a problem with it."

"I think it's a compliment we would use that (Chiefs) nickname," said Waukomis football coach Mike Felder, who is one-third Cherokee Indian. "Like at Wakita, a warrior is like a solider for that tribe. (Using a warrior for the school's nickname) is not a disgrace at all. It's an honor."

"We would never do anything that's offensive to any culture," said Waukomis principal Janet Blocker. "We have been the Waukomis Chiefs for years and years. I don't see us changing. ... We have Native American students here in school, and they have never expressed any concerns about it."

The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association, the governing body for high school sports in Oklahoma, has no policy about nicknames.

"It's a local decision with the schools what they call themselves," said OSSAA executive Ed Robinson.

"Enid High will continue to maintain compliance with federal law based on the recommendation from our legal counsel," said Enid athletic director Bill Mayberry.

Several high schools around the state have American Indian nicknames. In District 6A-3, the league in which Enid competes in football, there are three -- Enid, the Tulsa Union Redskins and the Sapulpa Chieftains.

Union also features a student mascot dressed as an American Indian, and the team enters the field before home games through a smoking teepee.

"As long as you don't do something improper or insulting, I don't have a problem with (American Indian nicknames)," said Donnie Childs, a former Enid track and cross country standout who is a member of the Otoe Missouria tribe.

"I love the Enid mascot. I would fight for Enid to keep that mascot.

"I don't see anybody wanting to get rid of the Fighting Irish (of Notre Dame) or the (West Virginia) Mountaineers. Instead of fighting about the Florida State Seminoles or the North Dakota Fighting Sioux, if people would direct all that energy into presenting the Native American culture, people would change their minds on their own and see that these are proud people and we should honor them even more."

In recent years, some state colleges changed their nicknames. Southern Nazarene University used to be the Redskins, but now the nickname is Crimson Storm. Oklahoma City University was the Chiefs and now is the Stars.

Still in use, however, are the nicknames for the Bacone Warriors, Northeastern Oklahoma State Redmen and Southeastern Oklahoma State Savages.

Nationally in recent years, St. John's University changed its nickname from Redmen to Red Storm, and Marquette University changed from the Warriors to Golden Eagles.

The Florida State Seminoles may be the highest profile athletic program to use a Native American nickname, mascot and imagery.

Before each home game in Tallahassee a student dressed as Chief Osceola rides onto the field on a horse and hurls a flaming lance into the ground.

A similar display happens at the University of Illinois home games in Champaign, where a student dressed as Chief Illiniwec performs a native dance.

In August, the NCAA determined "hostile and abusive" nicknames and mascots would not be allowed on team uniforms or other clothing beginning with any NCAA postseason tournament after Feb. 1.

The National Congress of American Indians said Native American nicknames and mascots are "inaccurate, inauthentic representations of the rich diversity and complex history of more than 560 Indian tribes in the United States and perpetuate racial and cultural stereotypes."

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