Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter presented a $10,000 check to Cooperstown Central School at a board meeting Wednesday, but not before praising the students who pushed to oust the district’s longtime name of “Redskins.”
He called their efforts “thoughtful,” “inclusive,” “courteous” and “respectful.”
“I cannot say enough about it, you have a lot to be proud of here,” he said. “It is really amazing that some kids are really leading the way on this issue. You know neutral respect should not be controversial in this day and age.”
The check is to defray the cost for new uniforms when the name CCS Hawkeyes becomes effective on July 1. The Redskins name was retired, effective June 30, at a school board meeting in March.
Halbritter, who is also CEO of Oneida Nation Enterprises, said the students have “recognized that we are part of a broader community in this world.”
“More and more high schools and colleges are beginning to recognize the significance of using nicknames that are offensive to others, and it is encouraging to see that they are doing that here,” Halbritter said.
Making the decision right in the shadow of the Baseball Hall of Fame is even more remarkable, according to Halbritter.
Halbritter said CCS is showing more thoughtful and respectful initiatives than many wealthy major-league team owners and urged the Washington professional football team to follow the Cooperstown students’ lead.
Board President David Borgstrom said when students came forward about concerns with the CCS nickname in December, he was proud and impressed with their social awareness. He said the concerns were hard to refute, and the board felt their voices needed to be heard.
“I was proud of the students then, I am proud of them now and I am proud of the entire community for where we are today,” Borgstrom said.
He added: “I can only hope that what has transpired here tonight resonates somehow in Washington with all the debates they have there about the name of their football team.”
Hawkeye is the nickname of Natty Bumppo, a character created by author James Fenimore Cooper, who lived in Cooperstown.
Board members adopted the name during a special meeting on April 23 after making sure there would be no infringement issues or conflicts with the Cooperstown team from the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League that goes by Cooperstown Hawkeyes.
A letter of agreement was made through Green & Green Attorney at Law between CCS and the team’s owner and president, Thomas Hickey. The agreement states that Cooperstown Minor League Baseball Ventures, LLC, is the holder of the trademark “Cooperstown Hawkeyes,” but is willing to allow the school to use the name “Cooperstown Central School Hawkeyes” or “CCS Hawkeyes.”
According to school officials, the process of changing the district’s nickname began when students discussed their concerns with the use of “Redskins” with administration and board members. Officials then began reviewing the potentially negative message associated with the term. The topic was publicly broached at the Jan. 16 board of education meeting.
Following that meeting Cooperstown Student Council members were asked to assist with gathering suggestions and feedback for potential alternatives to the nickname. Students in grades seven through 12 were given the opportunity to weigh in. A student survey, which allowed “Redskins” as a write-in vote, narrowed a list of names down to a top five.
However, after several representatives of the school’s alumni association questioned why their input was not sought, the school reached out to get guidance from all community members with assistance from the group.
Hawkeyes was the name that received the most support by students, teachers and the public via a second round of surveys. CCS Hawkeyes, Huskies, Pathfinders and Pioneers were the final four names put out for vote.
According to school officials, the name “Redskins” dates to the mid-1920s. The district plans to keep its colors of orange and black along its emblem based on “The Indian Hunter.”