Editor’s Note: The following information was provided before the July 13 Union Public Schools board meeting by Union United for Change, “a group of nearly 1,000 alumni, parents, students and staff, who have joined together to advocate for not only Union School District’s renaming of its mascot but for broader efforts toward a more inclusive and equitable place for all students to thrive ahead of the July 13 school board vote.”
“As soon as we heard that there was potential for the district to reevaluate its mascot, we jumped into action,” Shagah Zakerion, one of the group’s leaders, said. “We love our school and it is time for the Union values we grew up on to be reflected in the images and namesake that represents us and it is time that we live by the values we espouse.
“The mascot name, which is associated with bounties for scalped heads of tribal people, is a decades old controversy. However, since the school board last looked at the issue in 2002, the district has evolved and the time for a more inclusive environment for students is now.
“No slur should be used to denigrate and suppress native people and it certainly should not be used to represent a public school located in Oklahoma, home to 39 federally recognized tribes,” Zakerion said.
Zakerion, who previously served as executive director of Tulsa’s Young Professionals and graduated from Union High School in 2006, said the coalition was formed to show school board members and leaders that there is a large, organized and unified group ready to support them in the hard work involved in creating lasting change.
The Union United for Change is advocating for school board members to vote Yes to supporting the creation of not only an exploratory committee but also a committee that is:
“1. Dedicated to finding a permanent solution for mascot change and the elimination of all uses of native imagery and emblems across the district, including tipis
- Representative of a broad reaching and diverse group of members that include people from inside and outside of the district and provides for meaningful engagement with tribes and native communities, such as Mvskoke Creek, Cherokee, and Osage nations as well as the Greater Tulsa Area Indian Affairs Commission and community groups like Tulsa Indian Club, for example
- Accountable to a clear and direct timeline that leads to productive dialogue and actional results
- Committed to creating a physically and emotionally safe environment for all students to thrive by outlining additional measures and curriculum changes the district can take toward building a diverse, inclusive and equitable learning environment.”