Community, Education, Latest News, Morgantown

Mascot petition surfaces online

Imagery is ‘insensitive and disrespectful’ to Native American culture says organizers

That’s why she signed the petition.

As a freshman, Elizabeth Herrick couldn’t get enough of those whoops and war-beats on the 50-yard-line at Pony Lewis Field.

Pony Lewis is where Morgantown High School plays its home football games, and Herrick, who graduated in 2015, was a member of the storied Red and Blue Marching Band.

Around here, the band has a renowned reputation with national exposure, too.

Over the years, it has represented MHS and the Mountain State at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in New York City.

The Rose Bowl Parade, also, that brassy bit of Southern California pomp that steps off in Pasadena to make New Year’s Day official on that end of the country.

By the time she was a senior, Herrick, however, had some history and sociology courses on her transcript.

She started seeing all that Pony Lewis pageantry through a different cultural lens. She started putting the yells and drumline cadences to the beat of bigotry.

She began noticing, she said, that the drum major was done out in a full headdress, while the accompanying majorettes were adorned in fringes and headbands with a single feather.

“It was a compete disregard of Native American culture,” Herrick said.

Which, goes back to the aforementioned document.

 Huddling up

“Change the Morgantown High School Mascot” was launched weeks ago on, the online activism site.

Type “ morgantown high school” in a search engine to sign the petition.

While there, you may also view the mission statement of its founders, a group calling itself, “Students Against the MHS Mascot.”

Morgantown High’s use of such imagery, petition organizers say, is “insensitive and disrespectful” to Native American culture.

 As is the “Mohigan” moniker it uses for its sports teams, they also say.

It calls for the school and community to come up with something different that, its founders say, doesn’t denigrate.

By 8:15 p.m. Thursday, 1,800 people (and counting), had electronically nodded in agreement, by affixing their digital signatures.

The petition is hitting right as sport teams are under intensive scrutiny for their use of Native American names and imagery.

Teams such as the now-former Washington Redskins of the NFL, which is now (temporarily) known as “The Washington Football Team,” before it kicks off its new name and logo after this season.

The decision by its owners to bench the name of the pro franchise in the nation’s capital came earlier this month following weeks of social unrest and racial tension across the U.S. — and that, Bonnie Brown said, was about time.

 Disrespect (highs and lows thereof)

Brown is coordinator of WVU’s Program for Native American Studies.

Historically, she said, teams logically may have meant no ill by choosing “Indian” mascots.

 The Cleveland Indians of Major League Baseball, she said, took their moniker in 1915.

Psychological wounds, though, she said, can’t help but be  inflicted.

T-shirts and banners carried worlds of cultural hurt, she said, with slogans such as “Scalp the Indians,” and the like.

It’s not innocent fun, she said, nor is it the stuff of simple team rivalry.

“They are reducing real people to cartoon imagery,” Brown said.

 “They are degrading sacred traditions related to regalia, symbols of honor, dance, song and rituals.”

 Online protests, and other forms of irony

While people may think “Mohican,” when they hear the name of the MHS mascot, it  was a yearbook, and not Native American culture, that inspired “Mohigan,” according to school lore.

As chronicled in the MHS handbook for parents of student-athletes, the name Mohigan is a mash-up of the yearbook’s name “Morgantown High Annual.”

 An identity was born by taking a bunched-up abbreviation.


 The school kept the Indian theme “to align with the well-known Mohican,” according to the handbook.

Graduates, ironically, took to social media two summers ago, when they thought the school’s signature “M” logo with the headdress logo was going away, — after it was sanded off the basketball court during a repair and makeover.

In the meantime, Monongalia Schools Superintendent Eddie Campbell Jr. said he and other officials are listening in the central office, even with all that COVID-19 racket.

Respect, for both culture and tradition, will rule while the district begins digging to a new mascot sometime around the bend.

“We’re not dismissing this by any means,” he said.

“We’re talking to a lot of people, and we’re going to do what needs to happen.”

Whatever that is, Herrick said, just make sure its an inclusive symbol. For all.

“And the school colors are red, white and blue.”

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