Native American mascot debate for Bellevue East Chieftains

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BELLEVUE, Neb. (WOWT)-- The debate over school nicknames sparks again when members on the State-Tribal Relations Committee in the Nebraska Legislature, are considering requiring public, nontribal schools to change their Native-American mascots.

Schools like Bellevue East, are referred to as the Chieftains and use a Native American Chief Head as the school’s mascot.

Jessica Mosley can see why this might be an issue.

“It’s more of a cultural thing and not something that should be a mascot, so I see why they’d want to change it to not offend anyone,” said Mosely.

The school banned any kind of tribal attire after students wore Native-American headdresses to a football game in 2015.

CJ Semanko is a graduate from Bellevue East who wore the mascot on his wrestling singlet. He says the mascot is something he and other alumni can hold on to, it is endowed in Chieftain Spirit.

"We were doing our best to uphold this tradition and they expected excellence of us and we knew we were giving that, and I think that was the most important thing about it to me," said Semanko.

Chairman of the Ponca Tribe in Nebraska, Larry Wright Jr., feels that most Native American’s see no honor in this tradition.

Senator Tom Brewer, the state’s only Native-American Legislator, said: “A lot of the mascots honor the warrior spirit.”

Bellevue East is not the only school that has had this debate. Millard South changed its mascot from the Indians to the Patriots in 2000. The University of Nebraska- Omaha changed from the Indians to the Mavericks in 1971.