WILDWOOD — As many New Jersey schools reconsider their use of Native American images and names for their teams one school is keeping it with the blessing of a Native American education group.

The district began a review of the Warrior name and consulted with The Native American Guardian’s Association, a group that advocates for increased education about Native American history especially in public educational institutions. The group's philosophy is "educate not eradicate."

"Whenever the Board of Education’s use of Native American imagery has come into question, the position has been that any exploration into changes to the district's branding should be made in collaboration with the school community in consultation with representatives of Native American Indian communities," Superintendent J. Kenyon Kummings said in a written statement. "The board kept its word and in doing so found additional cultural and educational benefits for our students."

NAGA gave its approval of continued use of the Warrior name in part because it makes a distinction between the use of a mascot and a logo.

The group believes that removing Native American imagery from popular culture further discredits their importance in U.S. history.

“The process was helped by the fact that the Wildwood Public School District has not had a mascot (costume) for over two decades," Kummings said.

Wildwood Warrior snow sculpture
Wildwood Warrior snow sculpture (Wildwood Schools via Twitter)

Keeping the name comes with an education

NAGA will also provide education about the “rich cultural heritage and social justice for this longtime marginalized race," according to the district.

Wildwood Board of Education President Ernest Troiano III defended the use of the Warrior for 107 years as one of respect for what the name represents.

“Schools and teams using the nickname 'Warriors' have done so out of reverence for the classic Indian warrior … for their prowess in combat and never giving up – something that is important in the context of athletics. We wear the Warrior name and logo in unity, and with pride, for what the Native American Warrior represents.”

Howell High School mascot submssions
Howell High School mascot submissions (Freehold Regional High School District)

Team name changes in recent years

While several attempts have been made to change names that reference Native Americans the Pascack Valley Regional High School District Board of Education in 2020 voted to change the names of their two high school teams, the Pascack Hill Cowboys and Pascack Valley Indians.

Howell High School changed the cartoonish imagery in 2020 for its Rebels team name to a silhouetted "rebel" wearing a tricorn hat that resembles the New England Patriots logo.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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