ORISKANY — Go back in time to about 65 years ago, Oriskany Central School did not have a nickname or mascot.
Local resident Dave Fay recalled it was in 1956 or 57, when he was in high school, that someone had the idea that the school district/sports teams should have a “name” other than simply, Oriskany. When the name was chosen, it was meant to honor one of the two Indian Nations who supported the Patriots in the American Revolution — the Oneidas — who along with the Tuscarora, sided with the revolutionaries.
Fay remembered a contest was held, with the winner receiving $2 as the prize.
“There were a bunch of names submitted, and a committee sat down and decided,” Fay said. “There were only two Indian Nations who supported the Revolution, and one of them is the Oneida tribe. So we were of a mind to celebrate that heritage” and support in the Battle of Oriskany.
At an OCS Board of Education meeting to be held online via Zoom at 5 p.m. tonight, district officials will discuss whether Oriskany should keep its Redskins moniker.
Superintendent Timothy J. Gaffney said the special meeting to discuss the logo and mascot was also organized to address other items.
Gaffney said Wednesday that a special board meeting would be scheduled to include the discussion of the logo and mascot name. He also said that no decision has yet been made regarding the school district’s usage of the “Redskins” name, and that a more in-depth discussion was needed. He additionally said the district was aware of other recent developments involving such usages of the name.
The NFL’s Washington Redskins have announced they will be changing their team name due to protests of it.
Oriskany alumnus Fay said while the chosen name was meant to honor the Oneidas, he admits it was chosen “during a different time,” and seeing times have changed, in the end, it’s not about the name, but “the people.”
“You can’t blame a man for something that happened in his time — it happened in his time,” reflected Fay. “The name was done as a tribute to the Oneida Nation for supporting us in the war and Battle of Oriskany — that was our heritage. So given that background, that’s how it happened.”
He said, “Years went by, times change and things happen.” Today, he said, some people may not think the name is appropriate anymore while others may want to keep the name and tradition.
But, Fay said, there’s more to the school than the name of its mascot.
“It’s more the school that I care about — the name is just a name. If that name is inappropriate now, and people think that, then change it. I don’t have a problem with that. I didn’t start high school having a name.”
No matter what name his alma matter is identified by, Fay said he will always be proud of his school and community.
“I’m still proud of Oriskany — I’m still proud of the school and what it accomplishes. It’s still a great little school — whether we’re the Continentals or Patriots. Sure there’s a lot of different choices” for names, “but the people are the same. The people here are still great people. ... (the name) was never meant to be inappropriate by any means...it was meant to honor the Battle of Oriskany. We did it in good faith.”