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Indian head removed in bits from Park, but could show its face again

The pieces of the Park High School Indian mascot mosaic were removed June 10 and are now in the possession of the American Indian Movement Interpretive Center in Minneapolis. File photo

Rest in pieces.

The Park High School Indian head emblem, embedded for more than half a century on the floor of the east part of the main hallway near the school gym, did not survive its removal, according to a District 833 spokesperson.

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In a statement, Shelly Schafer, director of communications and public relations, said that they met with four separate contractors in March. None could guarantee they could remove the head in one piece, she said.

Doing so would have required heavy equipment, which would be hard to move into the building and which could have damaged the floor.

"Even without considering the physical limitations and cost, no contractor could guarantee they could remove the emblem intact, based on how it was constructed," Schafer said.

It was removed June 10.

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"The lowest quote to potentially preserve the emblem was more than five times the amount to remove it," Schafer said in an email.

But the mascot could show its face again: the pieces have been delivered to the American Indian Movement Interpretive Center in Minneapolis. Founder Clyde Bellecourt, a White Earth Ojibwe civil rights organizer, said they may assemble the pieces as part of an educational exhibit.

"We could reassemble it somewhere," he said, "(with) maybe a couple of short lines about why it was taken down."

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The artwork was installed at Park in 1965. It remained through 1994, when Park changed the name of its sports teams from the Indians to the Wolfpack. The move was part of a national reckoning over the the use of Native American imagery in commercial logos or mascots.

In February, members of the District 833 American Indian Parent Committee told South Washington County School Board the mosaic was racist and should go. Petitions sprung up on social media in favor of keeping the mosaic, which supporters contended was part of the school's history and honors American indians. Some claimed there was an unwritten policy among students not to step on the mosaic.

Bellecourt said the district contacted them about taking possession of the mascot.

The organization has successfully lobbied for the removal of 3,000 names and images in high school, college, professional sports and scouting, Bellecourt said.

William Loeffler

William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009. 

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