The only tradition alive at Anderson H.S. is ignorance
About 8 1 ⁄ 2 years ago, I walked into Anderson High School on some sticky August day for the first time as a student.
There were many things off-putting about it: the garish orange color that painted seemingly every surface, the lack of air conditioning that made focusing on learning impossible and, prominently in the lobby, a statue of a Native American man chained in a mock desert landscape.
In recent days, many of my peers have taken to Facebook to lambast a small group of Anderson residents for trying to change the school’s mascot. Tradition, they cry. Honor, they type. All the while, I keep thinking about that statue.
It’s not just that it was chained in its teenage prison — it very well still could be; I haven’t set foot in the school in years — which is bad enough when considering the Trail of Tears and any number of other atrocities inflicted upon Native American tribes over the course of U.S. history. Nor was it the geographically incorrect depiction of an American Indian among cacti in Cincinnati.
The problem with this statue was that we all passed it, day in and day out, without so much as a glance or a question of whether it was, at best, insensitive and, at worst, abhorrent.
Many of my peers don’t see a problem with Anderson’s mascot, a word I will not type because it is a racial slur on par with many others that would not be fit for print. They almost all fall into the same category: white, bornand- raised Anderson Township residents who have never left their bubble.
They aren’t offended by the mascot, so it can’t be offensive. It’s Anderson tradition, and tradition can’t be bad.
If Anderson Township truly wants to honor and respect Native Americans, and particularly tribes with roots in Ohio, it would not only change the high school’s mascot but drastically improve education in its schools about the historical and modern-day plights of Native American tribe members.
Anderson could partner with Miami University and send its students to reservation land in Oklahoma, where the Miami tribe was forced to move to after being pushed out of Ohio. Students could learn the Myaamia language, which tribe members have painstakingly rediscovered. Or perhaps they could watch the film Reel Injun, and learn that their school’s depiction of a Native American is largely based on old Westerns in which American Indians were played by white actors.
The only tradition alive and well at Anderson High School is one of ignorance, and it’s a sad day if an educational institution can’t use its position to provide knowledge and understanding.
Abbey Gingras is a journalist who lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She graduated from Anderson High School in 2013 and Miami University in 2017.
“ ... It’s a sad day if an educational institution can’t use its position to provide knowledge and understanding,” the author says. ENQUIRER FILE