Name controversy heating up in the Village of Lancaster

LANCASTER, N.Y. (WKBW) - Preserving history or changing what some call a derogatory term. That's the debate heating up in Western New York.

In the Village of Lancaster, some residents and students say the meaning behind their school nickname "Redskins" is a celebration of a tradition that has been around for nearly 70 years.

"I play football for the Redskins and it just means pride, truth, courage and honor," said 8th grader Sam Friend.

But for Native Americans, like Ryan Zunner of the Oneida tribe, the term denigrates his culture.

"It makes my skin cringe," Zunner said. "When you hear people say vulgar words and you have that feeling inside of you, that's what I get. It's very negative. I take offense to it."

A banner, galvanizing support to keep the nickname, now hangs near the intersection of Pleasant and Central Avenue in the Village.

"It depends on which definition you're looking at. This can be very objective, which is what we like to say our logo is,"  Brenda Christopher said. "Anything can be subjective and turned into a derogatory term. The term Redskin for us is nothing but pride and tradition."

There is a Facebook page and a petition on Change.org with nearly 1,300 electronic signatures in favor of preserving the moniker.

For Zunner, no matter how much support the school and community receives online, the disrespect he feels is immeasurable.

"This should have never been a debate," he said. "This is offensive and historically has always been offensive. If people say it's support to represent our culture, then let us be the judge of what should positively and negatively affect our culture. Redskins negatively affects our culture."

As for changing the nickname?

"We're not even going to entertain that until we're forced to," Christopher said. "But you have to consider, what are you going to change it to? What group are you going to be offended next?"

A public forum at Lancaster High School is scheduled for March 3 at 7 p.m.

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