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Superintendent says ‘lot of pride’ in Pinson Valley nickname

By Gary Lloyd

PINSON — Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Stephen Nowlin says Pinson Valley has “a lot of pride” in its Indians nickname, a nickname that has gained national attention over the past month.

At the Nov. 15 Class 5A second-round playoff football game between Pinson Valley and McAdory, a bust-through banner held up by McAdory cheerleadersread, “Hey Indians, get ready to leave in a trail of tears, round 2.” McAdory High School Principal Tod Humphries on the school’s website last month apologized for the banner.

Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Stephen Nowlin
photo courtesy of Jefferson County Schools

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker said the Cherokee Nation this year is commemorating the 175th anniversary of the start of the Trail of Tears, when about 16,000 Cherokees began the forcible trek to Oklahoma from their homelands in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Kentucky. About 4,000 died.

Last month, a petition began at www.change.org, urging the Jefferson County Board of Education to instruct Pinson Valley High School to drop the Indians as the school mascot. As of Monday, the petition, started by Toby Vanlandingham of Weitchpec, Calif., had 146 supporters. The petition is directed to Nowlin, stating that he strongly urges Nowlin to drop Indians as the school mascot and forbid the use of a race of people as the mascot.

The petition also criticizes a photo of a Pinson Valley High School homecoming float that Vanlandingham said “carried a child complete with fake leather fringed shirt and pants, wearing a dyed chicken feather headdress while standing next to his teepee. Also on the float was a paper chain made with white, black, red and yellow links, the four colors of the medicine wheel.” Pinson Valley’s school colors are black, red and yellow.

Nowlin said he’s heard of the online petition.

“It’s not an insulting term,” Nowlin said of Pinson Valley’s mascot. “It’s not considered that to most people. It’s a term which has a lot of pride and admirable qualities connected with it in terms of mascots.”

A look at the controversial bust-through banner
photo courtesy of fiftyfourfortyorfight.tumblr.com

The Alabama High School Athletic Association lists “Indians” as the eighth most common school nickname in Alabama. There are 11 schools that use the mascot. Other most-used mascots include Tigers, Bulldogs, Wildcats, Panthers, Eagles, Lions, Yellow Jackets, Rams, Hornets, Patriots and Rebels.

One person from Pinson signed the online petition in support of a name change.

“Indian is a race and has been used the wrong way for a long time,” Tanya Nguyen of Pinson said. “It could be PV Mexicans, PV Italians, etc. It’s time to get the respect that has been neglected for so long.”

Pinson Valley High School graduate Valerie May, who now lives in Mebane, N.C., commented in support of the Indians mascot.

“It is very important to me,” May wrote. “I graduated in 1988 and had a sister that also went there and the Indians is what it has always been and there is nothing wrong with it at all they should leave it as it is!”

Nowlin said changing a school’s nickname is up to the local school.

“The Pinson Valley community is very attached to that name,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of pride in it. It’s a part of the identity.”

Contact Gary Lloyd at news@trussvilletribune.com and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.

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