Growing up in Ossining, even though I went to Catholic schools after 1st grade, I always got the connection between the local history and the high school mascot, the Ossining Indian. We were told of the Sint Sinck heritage, stone on stone, and how the high school teams were emblematic of that history. That changed in 2002, when social and political pressure convinced the district to retire the Indian mascot. OHS grad Dana Goldstein, quite an accomplished scholar herself, has written a complex commentary on the change and aftermath.
Of course, the community is now a decade into mascot limbo, and with all due respect for the folks with the Ossining Indians Forever bumper stickers, I see less of an issue with the loss of the Indian as the lack of a suitable replacement. They have tried and trashed the fictitious “Riverhawk,” then simply “O,” and now I see tacit references in the press to the “Pride,” as if those ex -jocks among us don’t already know that the term is as common as “athletic supporter.” The only official announcement of Pride is on a student blog I found from a senior, Trevor Gill, who graduated last year.
I wouldn’t have a horse in this race if I did not still reside in the district. My alma mater, John F Kennedy Catholic in Somers, is represented by the Gaels, another ethnic character, only of the Irish variety. I won’t go past mentioning that Notre Dame’s mascot, the fighting Irish, is literally a drunk leprechaun. And I couldn’t root for the Washington Redskins. But the reason for retiring the Indian was not mere political correctness. Tomahawk chops, caricatured logos and costumed buffoons would be reason enough for me if the mist of genocide and suffering did not linger. And as much as I’d like to cross my heart and promise to go back to the Indian if we could do it respectfully and without chicanery and stereotypes, I don’t think we can unring the mascot bell.
What I would like to see is a mascot that the entire community can get behind that isn’t a vowel or part-time adjective. The reason the Indian still remains in our consciousness is because they haven’t devoted the effort to a suitable replacement that matched the campaign to retire the Indian. The world has changed. No one is changing their mascot from Wildcat or Bear to Indian. It is the other way around. I think it is time for Ossining to adapt, because you cannot rewind. The best thing to do is for the district to put an earnest effort in finding a new identity that resonates with both sides of the argument once and for all.