ANDERSON — Members of the Anderson Community Schools board on Tuesday received an update from Superintendent Joe Cronk about the internal review of the district’s Indian mascot, maiden and other elements of the high school’s basketball pregame routine.

Cronk told the board that he had no recommendations to present, but said he’s had “productive” conversations with Chief Brad KillsCrow of the Delaware Tribe of Indians, one of the groups that has expressed concern with the schools’ use of Native American imagery.

“I’ve had numerous e-mails and conversations with Chief KillsCrow and assistant chief Jeremy Johnson to talk about how do we approach this respectfully? How can we work to provide education for our students, for our community? How can we work through this?” Cronk said after the board’s monthly meeting. “The last Zoom meeting I had with Chief KillsCrow went well, and we hope to continue that now that we’re moving toward what I hope to be a partnership with them.”

The review, prompted in part by urging from the American Indian Movement, was undertaken after a video posted to Tik-Tok depicted the routine, the maiden and mascot as well as the passing of a peace pipe among the school’s cheerleaders. The video has drawn nearly a million views, created national headlines and, as in other instances where Native American imagery has come under scrutiny, polarized opinions on both sides of the issue.

“I think there’s going to be people that, for lack of a better phrase, that want to take a hard line,” ACS board President Patrick Hill said. “I think what they’ve come together and done is presented something that is going to be able to allow us to grow and work together in a collaborative process that honors the heritage, which is what we intended to do in the first place.”

One member of the public who spoke at the meeting, Paul Partezana, an ACS teacher who lives in Muncie, said the discussions over the district’s nickname, mascot and other imagery presents “a transformative opportunity to not only teach our students, but to show them that, yes, knowledge is power. We know better. Now, we will do better.”

Cronk, in a guest editorial published in the April 20 edition of The Herald Bulletin, said the review would include an internal focus group “to identify all the ways in which we are using the ‘Indian’ name and Indian imagery.”

Cronk provided more details on those efforts, noting that the committee was more of a “task force,” and that the group’s efforts to chronicle all uses of Native American imagery expanded beyond the city limits of Anderson. “We went around the city, we went around the county, and we cataloged all instances that we could find of uses of Native American names, images, iconography, statues, carvings,” Cronk said. “We took all those pictures and we categorized, from the macro to the micro – this is what the county does, this is what the city has – all the city patches, the logos that are around the city.”

Cronk said he presented the group’s findings to Chief KillsCrow as part of their discussions, adding that at the board’s June meeting, a comprehensive presentation of the data portfolio is planned.
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