Newly elected school board in Pennsylvania reclaims Indigenous mascot, rejects cancel culture

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A Pennsylvania community reclaimed its local Indigenous history and a school’s popular tribesman mascot last week, just a month after five new school committee members won elections and ran on pro-Native American platforms. 

The Southern York County School District (SYCSD) school board voted 7-2 on Thursday to allow Susquehannock High School to bring back its traditional Warriors logo. 

“This vote was the Lexington & Concord moment in the effort to defeat cancel culture,” Native American activist and historian Andre Billeaudeuax told Fox News Digital, after lobbying on behalf of the traditional image that pays homage to the Indigenous Susquehannock people. 

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All seven votes in favor of the logo came from members who were elected since a previous board voted to remove the logo back in 2021. 

“The SYCSD school board stands as a role model and blueprint for other communities fighting for their Native names and imagery,” the North Dakota-based Native American Guardians Association (NAGA) said in a statement, after it presented its case last week at the board meeting.

Five of the newcomers were elected in November after the sudden removal of the popular image in 2021 — and an effort to rewrite the region’s Native American history — spurred community anger and action. 

“This movement was about erasing Native American culture and I wasn’t about to stand for it,” Jennifer Henkel, a mother of three children and one of the new school board members, told Fox News Digital. 

“The SYCSD school board stands as a role model and blueprint for other communities fighting for their Native names and imagery.”

She and the other four new school board members, including her husband, Nathan Henkel, had never before run for elected office, she said. 

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Their arrival, however, is apparently not welcome by everyone in the community.

“They came into their new positions with bravado to push their personal agendas, and not with humility to learn their jobs,” wrote Deborah Kalina, a former member of the school board, in a recent guest editorial that appeared in the York Daily Record.

Pennsylvania school board

“To put the mascot away is respect for the past, for the present and for the future,” Katy Isennock, identified as a school alumna, mother and Native American, also told the same local outlet after the vote last week.  

Moved by cancel-culture effort

Henkel said she was moved to political action by the negative impact on the community of the COVID-19 lockdowns and school closures — and by a cancel-culture effort to rewrite local history to stir public sentiment against the Warriors image. 

The outrage instead fueled the community’s effort to save its local history.

MEET THE AMERICAN WHO WAS REVERED AS THE ‘PATRON SAINT’ UNTIL HE WAS CANCELED: LENNI LENAPE CHIEF TAMMANY

“Current research findings demonstrate that there is no evidence that the Susquehannock Indians lived in or around the municipalities that comprise the Southern York County School District,” the board’s diversity committee wrote in a 2021 study. 

Yet that diversity committee report appears to conflict with centuries of known local history. European explorers wrote about the Susquehannock people who lived along the Susquehanna River as early as 1608, while historians believe they lived in the area centuries earlier. 

Redskins historian

Susquehannock “communities were located along the Susquehanna (River), especially in Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster and York counties,” reports the website of the Susquehanna National Heritage Area, citing several historical sources.

The Native peoples, the website also said, “lived in large fortified towns, the largest of which may have had a population of nearly 3,000 people.”

“This movement was about erasing Native American culture and I wasn’t about to stand for it.”

The diversity report apparently relied heavily on information provided by the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) to stoke opposition to the Susquehannock Warriors mascot. The powerful Washington, D.C.-based lobbying group is supported by taxpayer dollars and by left-wing activist groups. 

It’s the same group that led efforts to encourage the NFL’s Washington, D.C. franchise — now the Commanders — to change its name from the Redskins, while also targeting hundreds of other sports-team images around the nation.

Tools of Susquehannock people

The NCAI “receives grants from left-wing foundations like the Ford Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and George Soros’ Open Society Foundation, reports InfluenceWatch.org. 

The NCAI, a major Native American rights organization, has taken a strong stance against the use of Native American imagery. 

The NCAI “has tracked the retirement of more than 200 unsanctioned Native ‘themed’ mascots since 2019, and has supported legislation banning the use of these mascots in multiple states,” the group said in a statement to Fox News Digital in Sept. 2023.

Fox News Digital reached out to the group for comment regarding the Pennsylvania school district news.

A report the NCAI issued in 2010 included a lengthy history of the Redskins franchise, but did not mention the two influential Native Americans who inspired the organization’s name and imagery. 

Redskins logo

One was Lenni Lenape chief King Tammany, who was dubbed the “Patron Saint of America” for his role in motivating colonial troops in the American Revolution; and the other was Blackfoot chief John Two Guns White Calf, whose face appeared on the side of Redskins helmets for 48 years.

“It took a lot of bravery for people in York County to stand up and fight back against the agenda, like David against Goliath, and the difference they made is incredible,” said Billeaudeaux.

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