The great mascot debate of 2004


Ellie Kim

A picture of the Pascack Valley marching band in the 1966 edition of The Warrior. The uniforms featured images of Indian style teepees.

Abby Shapiro, Staff Editor

(Editor’s Note: As many are aware, Pascack Valley’s Indian mascot and nickname was removed last June after debates arose earlier that year, however, that was not the first time the mascot has been discussed. In 2004, a student-driven debate was held in the PV auditorium. In our latest installment of our “What’s in a Name” coverage package, Staff Editor Abby Shapiro interviews PV alumni Andrew Wang and Rajiv Venkataramanan, who were seniors at the time.)

Pascack Valley 2004 alum Andrew Wang thought that Native American symbols shouldn’t be reduced to certain stereotypes or ideas as a way to represent a school.

“Being someone who is the son of immigrants and sensitive to these sorts of racial and ethnic issues, I always felt during my time at PV that the mascot was confusing,” 2004 alum Rajiv Venkataramanan said.

In 2004, a group of PV students, including lawyer Wang and Venkataramanan, advocated for the removal of the former mascot, the Indian.

While the group failed to remove the mascot, Venkatarmanan said that, “even though we lost, we considered it really good progress in the sense that we put the issue on the radar and students were actually talking about it.”     

According to Venkataramanan, the student council began the conversation regarding how to handle the Indian logo during the 2004 school year. 

Venkataraman said that while some student council members found the mascot “disrespectful and racist,” others saw it “as a sign of tradition,” leaving the student government at a draw.

“I thought [the reason for removing the mascot] was very simple,” Venkataramanan said. “Demeaning the [Indian] symbols by making it nothing more than a sports mascot feels wrong to me.”

In hopes of settling the mascot debate, the student council decided to leave the fate of PV’s mascot in the hands of the students.

“I convinced the student council to put it up for a popular vote among the students to see what kind of sentiment it [was to them],” Venkataramanan said.

In an effort to persuade students in either direction, a debate was held in PV’s auditorium during school hours, which allowed a few panelists, including Wang, to state their reasoning behind their support or opposition of the mascot.

While Wang thought that the debate was somewhat helpful for the student body, he found that the majority of students ethier weren’t paying attention or already had a set idea in place regarding PV’s mascot.

Venkataraman said that prior to the debate, two Native American tribal speakers talked to the student body about their viewpoint concerning the mascot, hoping to provide the students with a different perspective on the situation.

However, in the end, Wang saw that “getting people to vote to change [the mascot] would have taken a lot of persuasions and psychological convincing that [he didn’t] think a lot of kids were open to or just didn’t care about.”

The 2004 debate concluded after the majority of PV students voted to preserve the mascot. Being that it has been several years since the mascot debate, there are very few records of the incident and many people involved have only loose memories of the situation.

Still, Wang found it “problematic to reduce an entire ethnic group or an entire civilization down to XYZ ideas and then hold yourself out as that thing as a way to represent school pride.”