The Mason City school board unanimously voted Monday night to approve the River Hawks as the high school’s new mascot, after the board did away with the Mohawk as mascot last year.
Mason City High School’s Student Senate whittled down numerous suggestions for a new mascot to three – the River Hawks, the Majors, and the Monarchs. More than 60% of the students voted for the River Hawks.
Principal Dan Long commended student leaders for their effort on the mascot issue. “I think they are truly a good example of leadership and practice that we hope to see at any level,” Long says. “To see our students do that, something that obviously brings about a wide range of emotions, I’m just extremely proud of what they’ve done, and to represent that with our school and our community, I really think that our Student Senate is an example for anyone, and I’m happy to stand behind them and support them in any setting.”
School board member Katherine Koehler thanked the Student Senate for leading the way in determining the next mascot. “If adults in this community would sit down and have conversations, respectful conversations, because I have, and I know we haven’t always agreed,” Koehler says. “But I commend you, and I respect you wholeheartedly for that. So thank you, thank you so much.”
Board member Brent Seaton says it was impressive that the students have played a central role in the matter, and now any community feedback should not be directed towards them but the school board.
“I believe that it’s real important moving forward, especially after the decision is made, that if people in the community have concerns about that decision that that pressure be placed on us, because we are making that decision,” Seaton says. “I also would ask the community to respect all the hard work and effort that our students had placed into helping the board make this decision.”
Several people spoke during the open forum section at the start of the meeting, prior to the decision being made, with a majority of the speakers voicing their opposition to the mascot change. Tom Stalker is head of the “Save the Mohawk Name” group. He says River Hawks might be offensive when considering the criteria the school board used to change the Mohawk name.
“Riverhawk. I don’t know if you know this, but I did some research on it. There’s actually a chief named Riverhawk Kaciek. He’s from Middletown, New York in the United States and he is a member of the Cheyenne River Tribe,” Stalker says. “I don’t know if you got his approval on that or not, but it’s really no different than the Mohawk situation.”
Stalker and other speakers said during the meeting that school board member Carol Dettmer stated in December that she could easily produce a letter from the St. Regis Mohawk tribal community, stating they were against the use of the Mohawk name, with one speaker saying Dettmer admitted to her recently that she could not produce a letter.
Stalker says that’s because the St. Regis Mohawks have not taken a formal stance on the issue. “Me and Barbara Hovland have been in contact with one of the chiefs, and she states to us that – number one – it’s no other tribe’s decision but their decision,” Stalker says, “and she states to me that three of the chiefs won’t sign it, three might sign it, but it’s not a big concern to them the way she has talked to us.”
The student vote was 61.4% percent for the River Hawks, 20.1% for the Majors, and 19% for the Monarchs.
(By Bob Fisher, KRIB, Mason City)