Warren County Iowa Genealogical Society



    Indianola Indian Mascot

    The Native American Guardian's Association (NAGA) is a 501c3 non-profit organization advocating for increased education about Native Americans, especially in public educational institutions, and greater recognition of Native American Heritage through the high profile venues of sports and other public platforms. Their slogan is “Educate NOT Eradicate”. What does that have to do with Indianola History?

    The use of “Indians” as a theme for our school sports teams, yearbooks and various other publications has become a point of controversy in recent years. The high school yearbook has always been known as the “Pow-Wow.” In the early part of the 20th century the students in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade competed in the “Pow-Wow Contest” to earn a party for the class that sold the most annuals. As I went through them I found only two yearbooks, 1917 and 1938, that used Native American caricatures throughout the book that would be considered inappropriate in today’s standards. The sports uniforms did not use “Indians” until recently. They spelled out the whole word, “Indianola” and if they had a symbol it was the large letter “I” with a smaller “H” and “S” on either side. The icon used in publications and on the school website has changed over the years. In the 1920s, ‘30s, and ‘40s Indians were frequently depicted as warriors. Beginning in the ‘50s the majestic picture of a Native American in full headdress was used. In the ‘80s and ‘90s it became just the headdress, and then it became the one we are currently using the dreamcatcher.

    Although I suspect we were always known as the “Indians”, the earliest newspaper use I could find of the slogan was February 8, 1920 in the Milo Motor. A basketball victory against Albia was described as “adding another scalp” to the win list. The Warren County Baseball League was an important part of recreational activities in the 1940s and beyond. In the Milo Motor, July 11, 1946 there was an article about the “Indians” playing baseball before the largest crowd of the season.

    In 2020 NAGA introduced the “Partner School Program” and Indianola Schools hope to become a part of this group. The purpose is not to replace references to Indians, but to “develop customized educational materials about the factual history of the team nickname and logo as well as about the history, customs, culture, and traditions of each school's regional tribes.” This would include the opportunity to join the network of Native themed schools across the nation which NAGA has assembled as a platform to draw from shared experiences, challenges, and successes. More information can be found online at www.nagaeducation.org/partner-school-program.

    Educational institutions and sports teams play an important role in the preservation and promotion of accurate American Indian legacy, not myths and legends. I am proud to say that our school’s use of the Indian terms and symbolism has changed and grown with our society’s growing awareness of the need to be respectful and considerate of all cultures.