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Painting of Massapequa High School Chiefs mural continues despite state ban on Native American mascots

Massapequa High School fighting ban on Native American mascots
Massapequa High School fighting ban on Native American mascots 02:10

MASSAPEQUA, N.Y. -- Massapequa High School students are painting a sprawling mural of their school mascot, a Native American chief wearing a colorful feathered headdress, in apparent defiance of a state order. 

The district is fighting New York's mandate to retire Native American mascots

Students took selfies in front of the Chiefs mural while painting continued on the wall of a bagel shop just feet from Massapequa High. 

"I think honestly it's beautiful that we honor them and everything because Massapequa is chiefs," a student said. 

For 30 years, the space has been allotted for a student-designed mural approved by the district. 

"I didn't know they were actually putting the chief back on there. I thought they were totally getting rid of it," a student said. 

The New York Board of Regents voted to ban such imagery and ordered districts to commit to retiring Native American mascots by June 30, otherwise they could lose state funding or school officials could be removed. 

"School districts should not be promoting soon-to-be retired indigenous team names, logos, or mascots in any capacity as they are also a violation of the Dignity For All Students Act," said the state board of education. 

Most of the dozen districts impacted said they would comply, but Massapequa hired legal counsel to fight the ban

"We stand beside you. We are Massapequa and we will not sit idly by while an unelected group of officials tries to remove our history," said the Massapequa Board of Education.

"Where does it stop? What's next?" said Assembly Member Michael Durso. "There is so much pride in our community for the Native American culture and we'd really like to keep it. Obviously we want to do it respectfully."

"Once a Chief, always a Chief," a student said. "I think it's fun. I think it's inclusive to everyone." 

"There is no chief who has ever looked like that. It is a fraudulent symbol. It is a disrespectful defiance of the law and hurtful towards the Native community of Long Island," said Chief Harry Wallace, of the Poospatuck Reservation. 

"I totally understand where the people are coming from, the Native Americans who were born here," a student said. 

The state said districts have until the end of the 2024-25 school year to remove the imagery. 

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