Venice High School Indians mascot under fire

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- The debate over Native-American mascots has now made its way to the Suncoast. A Sarasota resident who's Native-American says he wants Venice High School to stop using its Indian mascot.

It's on the street sign, the building, and almost every sign associated with the venice high. They are the indians. It's been their mascot since the 40s, but the years of tradition are now being challenged.

 

"Venice High and their cartoonish character, its not relevant to any of the Indians who've lived here in the state of Florida, its very cartoonish and offensive to me and many native Americans," says Sarasota resident Sal Serbin, a Native-American who's part of the Sioux nation.

Serbian says the term “Indians,” along with the images and symbols of “Indians” used on a regular basis, strike a negative chord every time he witnesses them at games.

"Everything that is done there on the Venice side of things, and also the opponents side, because they also have offensive things where they get little figures dolls, drawings and do derogatory things to Native-Americans, and it’s something that needs to stop," Serbin says.

But there are those that disagree, saying the word Indian and the associated images are not meant to be derogatory.

"I've had three kids go to high school here and graduate here -- we go to all the baseball, football, basketball games -- its just, “Go Indians,” a slogan, nothing bad," says Steve Price.

And he's not alone in his thoughts.

"I think Venice Indians is just fine," says Shirley Johnson.

"I think the whole situation is just silly,” said Robert [last name withheld]. “People should have other things to worry about.”

But Serbin says the cartoon depictions of Native-Americans and the word “Indians” have an entirely different connotation that's difficult to understand for non-Native-Americans.

"The ‘N’ word, for another good example that we've seen people have lost their job [for using],” Serbin says. “Yet with Native-Americans, people feel they can do whatever they want to us and our culture and its fine. And its not -- we don't like that.”

And that's the message Serbin presented to the Sarasota school board.

"Were in the early stages of the 21th century,” Serbin said. “Let’s not let the century continue on with the racism that dominated the 20th century."