Lane community divided over Indian tradition

James Coyne

The Warrior removed Native American imagery from its logo in October, which led to dozens of comments from alumni on and several emails to [email protected]

By Matt Conley, Reporter

The students at Lane are conflicted. Preparing their best arguments, students took to their respective class Facebook pages to discuss the school’s usage of the Indian head as its school symbol.

The controversy began when The Warrior changed a part of its title page. The newspaper used to feature Native American logos inside of the letter “O” in the “Warrior” header on Page 1 and in the staff box on Page 2, but the editors of the paper chose to remove these images, as they felt they were culturally insensitive.

Since then the debate around the issue has continued to grow. The Warrior’s logo change was the subject of a story published by DNAInfo Nov. 2, and was a featured topic on a local radio station. Many are infuriated that anybody would even start a conversation about removing such a traditional symbol, but others think that it is a necessary measure.

As soon as the logo was changed, many alumni contacted The Warrior’s feedback email address to voice their thoughts on the controversial topic.

Those who support changing the logo believe that its usage could be offensive to Native Americans and should be changed to be more inclusive. Irena Sromek, the editor of The Warrior in 1993, said that “While I never felt the Lane Indian was a negative image in any way, it’s still incorrect to use a Native American as the logo.”

Others say that this move is disrespecting a long held Lane Tech tradition. Many alumni have voiced their dissatisfaction with The Warrior’s recent decision.

“I feel the Lane Indian is a positive image and respectfully portrayed and honored Native American life,” said Harold Stratton, who identified himself as a Lane alum, class of 1980. “It isn’t the comical or horrific use of the Cleveland Indians or that of various sports teams,” he said.

Other feedback the Warrior received attacked what critics call the “politically correct culture.” Some opposed to the logo change said that always being afraid to offend anybody will only add more problems to our everyday lives, and divide everyone by creating cultural barriers.

Many alumni seemed to feel betrayed.

“The Lane Tech Indian is part of who we are as Laneites. I am so disappointed that you are deciding to go to your Politically Correct ideologies instead of following tradition,” said Neil Hernandez, who identified himself as a graduate of the class of 1988.

Those opposed to the change also feel that the Indian logo is being unfairly criticized, and they think it’s hypocritical to get up-in-arms over some cultural logos and not others.

“The Blackhawks use an Indian for their logo. Fremd High School has a Viking. Notre Dame has a leprechaun,” said Gail Grabinski, who identified herself as a graduate of the class of 1983.

The reason this issue has sparked so much controversy is not only because of the change in the newspaper, it is the implications this could have for the entire school. When you walk the halls of Lane right now you’ll find a vibrant array of Native American symbols and imagery, including historic murals scattered throughout the school, the “Shooting the Stars” statue in the Memorial Garden at the heart of the school, and even a totem pole on the front lawn of Addison. Beyond that there are many trophies and plaques featuring the Indian logo, as well as other assorted artwork throughout the school.

Some say that this could have a domino effect, and end up completely erasing a culture that is precious to many Lane students, faculty, and alumni.

“It’s a Lane Tech tradition,” said Aiden Drake, Div. 850. “[The Indian] shows Lane pride and diversity.”

Drake is one of many at Lane worried this new change could extend beyond the newspaper and into the rest of the school. Most Lane sports — including lacrosse, a sport Drake intends to play this spring — use an Indian logo or other symbols from Native American culture. People like Aiden are concerned that those who encouraged the Indian change in the paper will come for school sports next.

“It kinda sucks. People always find something offensive about everything,” said Drake. “There are offensive uses of an Indian logo, but for the life of me I can’t see how Lane has been anything but respectful.”

Chloe Stokes, Div. 862, is undecided on the issue. Stokes said she is half Native American, with Seneca and Cherokee ancestry.

“Obviously because I’m Native American I find it very dehumanizing to have my people be considered a mascot or a costume,” said Stokes. “However I feel like as long as we don’t have people dressing up in headdresses and doing redface to mock or imitate real ‘Indians,’ it’s pretty harmless, and mostly pointless to change the mascot.”

Many students feel the issue is over thought, and the best course of action is to just drop it.

“Just leave the damn Indian alone,” said one student who preferred to remain anonymous.