SAVANNAH, Mo. (AP) — Leaders of a nearly all-white northwest Missouri school district have narrowly voted to keep the high school’s “Savages” nickname but will phase out the use of Native American imagery.
The Savannah R-3 Board of Education’s 4-3 vote on Tuesday night came after months of dueling petitions and heated debates over the mascot and amid a national movement calling for racial justice, the Maryville Daily Forum reports.
“Thank you, Lord,” outgoing Board President Stancy Bond said after the meeting. “It has not been really a fun discussion. Both sides are very passionate about their opinion and both sides have great points, but ultimately I think we’ve made a great decision and we’ve made a compromise and that’s what it’s all about.”
Savannah, a town of about 5,000 residents about 65 miles (105 kilometers) north of Kansas City, was built on land that once belonged to several Native American tribes. The logo, versions of which date back to the 1930s, features the head of a Native American with a partially painted face and a feather in his hair.
Activists, including those who petitioned the board last summer to change the mascot, hoped to have the name and image eradicated. Nearly 350 people commented in writing.
“It’s embarrassing for me to explain the mascot to friends and they are often appalled that this hasn’t already been changed,” wrote Zachary Beattie, a 2010 graduate. “The need for this change has become abundantly clear.”
But many residents wanted nothing to change, and board member Dyann Duncan walked out of the meeting after failing to stop the removal of Native American imagery. She declined to discuss the issue Wednesday with The Associated Press.
The measure calls for preserving “school artifacts,” while using the new logo “whenever financially possible.” The phase-out will start at the beginning of the next school year.
District spokeswoman Jess Gillett told the AP that the board will meet again Monday to discuss new imagery to accompany the Savages name.