Removal of Native Mascot at Long Island School Sparks Controversy

After the
Comsewogue Community Facebook group posted about the school having to retire its mascot, an indigenous figurehead draped in a ceremonial headdress adorned with feathers, 131 members commented in the thread: 

“This woke crap is getting to be too much. Might as well forget our history.”

“Isn’t this a way of feeling honored? To have your heritage adorned and for people to admire? How is this in any way OFFENSIVE?

“It’s an honor, not racist.”

In April 2023, the New York State Board of Regents (BOR) voted unanimously to adopt a new rule, Part 123, prohibiting the use of indigenous team names, mascots and logos by public schools.

Because the Comsewogue School District logo is almost identical to the retired NFL Washington Redskins team logo (an identified slur by the contemporary dictionaries of American English), the school will have to comply. 

The retired NFL Redskins logo compared to Comsewogue high school’s current logo.

Many community members are opposed to the change, with some suggesting protests and petitions, but the BOR will withhold funding if the district doesn’t change it by the end of the 2024-2025 school year, and school officials don’t think it’s a battle that the Warriors, the school team, can win.

“We met with our lawyers, we met with the lawyers representing other school districts, we met with the state, and all feel very confident that the state has a very strong case,” said Jennifer Quinn,  Superintendent of Comsewogue Schools, located in Brookhaven Town, Long Island. 

When the rule was formulated in 2001, then Commissioner of Education of the State of New York Richard P. Mills cited The New York Association of School Psychologists, presenting that the use of Indigenous imagery has “a negative impact on not only Indigenous [students] but all students …”

The Shinnecock, local Native Americans, who have been on Long Island for 13,000 years, express consistent concern about the iconography, saying that self-esteem is negatively impacted when ceremonial clothing becomes someone’s costume.

Th expanse of Setalcott Nation territory. Photo Credit:

“The use of stereotype(sic) costumes, names, and cartoonish imagery dehumanize native people and our traditions,” Josephine Smith, Director of Cultural Resources for Shinnecock Nation, wrote in an official statement on their website.  

Comsewogue’s Town of Brookhaven, which is 80 percent white and less than 1 percent Native American, has been told that the mascot is harmful, but many insist on keeping it.

“I always felt it was to honor the Native people and history. It is our Long Island history and should not be erased!” one member of the Comsewogue Facebook group said. 

In response, Tyler Jimenez, an assistant professor of physiology at the University of Washington, said this perspective “is very misguided because these mascots have nothing to do with legitimate Native history in any way, shape or form…they have this stereotypic history that people are attached to for various reasons but it’s simply not accurate.”

In a qualitative study, he measured reactions to the removal of Native American mascots and found that prejudicial sentiment increased after its removal. In Comsewogue, we see this in chat rooms instead of courtrooms. 

After Part 123 passed, Monique Fitzgerald, a tribal member of Setalcott Nation, shared that a parent from Comsewogue wrote “a pretty lengthy post” on the Nations page.

“I thought that was very intrusive to come over there and spew whatever you wanted to spew,” Fitzgerald said . “You came into my space and you don’t get to question me,” she added. 

The trend continued. When an anonymous member wrote that the logo is “racist and always has been,” 466 comments followed. Some were in agreement, but many were offensive and antagonizing. 

An @comsewogueschools Instagram post


“It’s way more threatening and uncomfortable to be told that you yourself or your community is participating in this racist action. People don’t want to be told that,” Jimenez said. 


Vocal members continue to post pro-mascot threads, but as of June 2023, the state finalized their decision, effectively banning the indigenous figurehead and the associated “Warrior” title. 


“When we looked at the amount of money it’s gonna cost to keep fighting this, it seemed like a lot of money to spend when we could be using it to educate our kids,” Quinn said, referring to why they decided to comply with dismantling the mascot. 

Many students applauded the decision. “I think before anyone begins to say ‘we are honoring [Indigenous people] by representing them as strong and courageous!’ we have to think about what it means to actually represent something,” said Samantha Schwab, the class of 2022 student president.

 For local Native Americans, “honor” looks very different. “Honor the native people of an area by acknowledging the land, waters and people of an area. Honor the native people of an area by teaching curriculum developed with Native people of the area. Honor our people by returning lands taken illegally, by not developing on burial grounds, by not developing every piece of unoccupied land, or by polluting the lands and waters we live off of. We are a living people with living, evolving traditions, we are not your mascots” Shinnecock Nation said in their website’s official statement.