Five local school districts phasing out Native American mascots

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CANANDAIGUA, N.Y. — School districts with Native American mascots must prove to the state that they are transitioning to something new or risk losing state funding.

Locally, five school districts are making the change: Avon, Canisteo, Letchworth, Manchester-Shortsville and Canandaigua.  

In Canandaigua, the mascot debate is personal.

“According to Haudenosaunee, this is where life began,” explains Jamie Farr, the Superintendent.

“Canandaigua is a very important area for the Haudenosaunee in terms of the creation story, in terms of the Canandaigua treaty — which was the agreement for peace and support between George Washington and the U.S. Government and the Haudenosaunee. There’s a lot of historical relevance here,” Farr explains.

Several years ago, the district replaced the Native American profile from all its signage and uniforms.

“The move to the friendship belt was a logo that was mutually agreed upon by a faith keeper and the school district,” Farr says.

But now that has to go, along with the mascot name of the Braves.

The community has narrowed down the list of possible alternatives to eight, but the voting continues.

“We’ve ordered all new uniforms. They have Canandaigua or CA on them at this point until we know what our name is going to be,” Farr says. 

Letchworth and Avon School Districts are in the early stages of making the switch. 

The Superintendent of Manchester-Shortsville tells News10NBC the district made a commitment to stop using “Indian” in the school’s team name. They’ve also been working to remove Native American imagery, symbols, and logos throughout its schools. 

The Superintendent of Canisteo says the community has already decided on a new mascot. Instead of the Redskins, they’ll be known as the Canisteo Chargers. They didn’t make the switch in time for fall sports uniforms, but plan to have them all replaced by early next year as they work to change signage and other materials. 

“It’s going to be a slow process because at this point, the state is not offering any financial help to make these changes,” explains Farr. 

One of the biggest expenses for most school districts will be their sports stadiums. 

Districts have until July 1 to show the state that they’ve started the process of change. They have until June 30, 2025 to make sure all evidence of their former mascots on campus are gone.

“This is a proud community — a historic community. We have to look at it as an opportunity to do something special,” Farr says.