Lincoln Journal Star. March 3, 2022.
Editorial: Native mascot bill provides real solution
Native mascots for sports teams, at any level, are offensive. Far from honoring Native people, as their defenders have claimed, the mascots create stereotypes of Natives as primitive savages and encourage offensive fan behavior, like the “tomahawk chop” that is racist at its core.
For that reason, a movement to replace Native mascots has been underway for a couple decades, gradually getting, on the most visible, professional level, the Washington football team and Cleveland baseball team to drop their racist mascots.
That replacement process has slowly been occurring at Nebraska’s public schools, where some 22 schools still have Native mascots with such names as Warriors, Braves and Chieftains – mascots that diminish the self-esteem and aspirations of Native students and encourage racism and dressing up and playing Indian” among non-Natives.
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In addition to their disingenuous claim that the mascots were established decades ago to pay tribute to Native people, schools often try to excuse their failure to abandon Native mascots with a budgetary smokescreen.
Replacing logo-painted gymnasium floors, scoreboards, signs, uniforms, gear, like promotional T-shirts and letterhead costs money – money that isn’t available to schools operating under tight budgets.
That excuse would disappear with the passage of Omaha Sen. Megan Hunt’s LB1027. The bill, now pending before the Legislature’s Education Committee, would make schools that voluntarily replace their Native mascots eligible for grants of up to $200,000 to help offset the costs of discontinuing the mascots.
If all 22 schools received the maximum grant, the bill’s total cost to the state would be $4.4 million. In reality, the grants would likely come in under that amount as $200,000 appears to be more than enough to cover replacement of gym floors, scoreboards, etc.
In removing the cost barrier, the grants would further encourage schools that realize their mascots are hurtful to make the change and, wisely, serve as a first step to move every district to change their mascots.
If that incentive doesn’t bring along the 22 schools, the Legislature should, as Judi gaiashkibos, executive director the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs, says, revisit the issue and require that the Native mascots be changed.
The Journal Star has long supported the removal of Native mascots and was one of the first media outlets in the country to stop using the Washington NFL team’s name in its coverage.
Passage of LB1027 would be the next step in the removal process in a state that takes its name from a Native word, honors Native people, like Chief Standing Bear and Dr. Susan La Flesche Picote and should no longer demean its original inhabitants with the use of mascots.
Omaha World Herald. March 3, 2022.
Editorial: After 13 years and millions of visitors, Omaha zoo’s Dennis Pate has much to be proud of
As president and CEO of Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, Dennis Pate has had a significant impact on the Omaha area.
He arrived in 2009 from Jacksonville, Florida. Over the next 13 years, he not only maintained one of the Midwest’s top tourism locations but also contributed to the field of wildlife studies and conservation.
Pate recently announced that he will retire early next year.
From a business and tourism standpoint, Pate undertook a 10-year master plan that resulted in improved guest services and state-of-the-art exhibits including the Scott African Grasslands, Asian Highlands, Bay Family Children’s Adventure Trails and Daugherty Education Center and Owen Sea Lion Shores.
During his tenure, the zoo set records for attendance and earned World’s Best Zoo by Travelocity and Business of the Year from the Greater Omaha Chamber.
In regards to conservation, Omaha’s zoo has earned international respect for its global animal science and conservation work. Pate recognized the importance of getting more out of the zoo’s conservation resources and made strategic hires to implement that strategy.
And a successful strategy it has been. The zoo has a reputation for success working with tiger and leopard populations. Out of 20 breeding recommendations across zoos in 2016, Omaha was one of only two locations to successfully breed Amur tigers.
As part of the $73 million African Grasslands exhibit, Pate was instrumental in bringing elephants back to the zoo, later resulting on the zoo’s first African elephant births.
It’s important to note that both the African elephant and Amur tiger are considered endangered by wildlife groups around the globe, and are just two of the many species of endangered animals at the zoo.
Under Pate, the zoo has also continued and expanded its focus on wildlife and conservation education. In 2017, the Children’s Adventure Trails exhibit opened, part of a $27.5 million project that included an education center and the Holland Meadowlark Amphitheater.
When it opened, Pate said the exhibit was designed to allow children a place to be creative and play while, at the same time, learning about nature and wildlife.
The education center houses the zoo’s full-time high school, kindergarten and after-school programs. Classrooms have adjacent “huddle rooms” where educators can meet with students privately while still keeping an eye on the class through a window.
The windows on the education center are etched with silhouettes of Nebraska animals — white-tail deer, sandhill cranes, bullsnakes — to prevent birds from flying into them.
More recently, Pate led the zoo through the COVID pandemic. The zoo’s attendance numbers fell drastically, but have bounced back in the last year. The zoo typically sees more than one million visitors annually.
Pate told The World-Herald that leading the zoo has been the highlight of his professional life.
“I feel very lucky to have landed in this community and zoo with such an incredible staff and board,” Pate said.
His predecessor, Dr. Lee Simmons, is credited with building a great zoo and left enormous shoes to fill when he retired. Wearing his own shoes, Pate walked the walk and continued to take the zoo down the path of success.
We are grateful he landed in this community.
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