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Montoursville’s mascot

It’s time to talk about Montoursville’s mascot which I believe to be racist. And I don’t mean “politically incorrect,” I mean categorically racist. Broadly speaking, America has a strange fascination with Native imagery. We love our Indians. We use their likeness for our sports teams, cigarettes, butter, motorcycles, etc. It’s not offensive, we say, it’s respectful, honorific; an homage. Yet, Native Americans today suffer some of the worst rates of poverty, illness, incarceration, violence, and sexual assault. If you didn’t know about it, Google “missing and murdered Indigenous women” right now. So, do we really love our Indians?

Some of us may remember learning about the Indigenous history of central Pennsylvania. Madame Montour was a nice Indian lady who welcomed the white travelers and they all lived happily ever after. But have you ever met a Susquehannock person, or really any Native person, who lives in their ancestral home of Montoursville? Ever wondered why not? It’s because the Susquehannock people were decimated by European diseases, relocated, and massacred as part of a coordinated genocide against Native people, ordered by the highest levels of the U.S. government. Statistically, the genocide of Native Americans remains one of the worst atrocities of human history. And it hasn’t stopped.

Native communities across the United States saw some of the worst infection and mortality rates as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This largely has to do with chronic underfunding of the Indian Health Service. The nearly 600 federally recognized Tribes in the nation were also denied the $8 billion set aside for them in the CARES Act when it passed. We have built smallpox blankets into our fiscal policy.

In our current national moment of reckoning, we have seen some progress in our treatment of Native Americans. At the very least, some sports teams have ceased openly mocking the survivors of America’s Indigenous genocide. If the “Washington Football Team” can do it, so can Montoursville. I even picked out a less awkward alternative: The Montoursville Angels.

Following the explosion of TWA Flight 800, a cloud in the shape of an angel was seen above the Montoursville Area High School — comforting and consoling our community in its darkest moment. The Montoursville Angel represents strength and solidarity in times of struggle. It represents a call to act on our better instincts. I can think of no better mascot to guide our town into an uncertain future.

NICHOLAS RIPLEY

Montoursville

Submitted via email

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