This story has been updated from the print issue with new contact information. 

A panel of invited Native Americans from Wyoming, Idaho and Arizona are set for June 26 at Teton High School said one of the event’s organizers Dale Sharkey this week.

“We kept hearing from the community, ‘What do Native Americans think?’” she said.

So she and others started making calls to regional tribes.

“Even though they came here in 2013 and told us what they thought, we worked to put together a panel which is made up of all Native Americans to give them a chance to speak without being encumbered by our voices.”

In 2013, when the issue of the Redskin mascot was first discussed publicly, members of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe encouraged the Teton School District to change the mascot. According to the Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Office of Public Affairs, members of the tribe will again travel to Driggs to join the panel at the end of June.

Others confirmed for the panel include tribal member Sergio Maldonado of the Northern Arapaho Tribe who will be traveling from Lander, Wyoming, and Amanda Blackhorse who is a social worker and a member of the Navajo people. She is flying in from Phoenix to be a part of the June 26 event. Blackhorse was a lead plaintiff against the NFL to change the professional football team’s mascot, the Washington Redskins.

“The overall hope is to see how this mascot makes Native Americans feel,” said Sharkey. “At the end of the day, this mascot affects them the most and because of that, it doesn’t mean that their voice is any less. We have just to work harder to hear it.”

Sharkey said through local fundraising efforts, she is offering transportation and hotel funding for those traveling, though a few have declined the offer for financial support. “We are not paying anyone to speak,” said Sharkey. “ We are raising money to reimburse people for travel expenses. They are coming here because they care about this issue.”

She said the rest of the funds raised through a GoFundMe site will be donated to the school board.

Sharkey said the format is still being worked out, but that at the start of the panel discussion, prepared questions will be asked of the guests. After that, questions will be taken from the audience. She said she will be personally inviting members of the Teton School District board of trustees and will be reaching out to a variety of community members to seek input on what prepared questions should be addressed during the event.

“I was so nervous calling people out the blue, my hands were shaking,” she said “I didn’t know their stance and I didn’t know if they were going to come and speak about it. I wanted them to come and tell us what they thought. After talking with them, they are just wonderful people and we’re all just humans trying to talk about stuff. I really cannot wait to meet these folks.”

Sharkey said the only tribe she did not hear back from was the Nez Perce Tribe in Idaho. She called, but simply did not get a call returned.

Sharkey said that if folks wanted to reach out to her, she can be found at tetonhighmascot@gmail.com. The panel will be hosted at Teton High School on Wednesday June 26 from 7 to 9 p.m.

This story was updated on June 8 to reflect the correct spelling of Sergio Maldonado. Our apologies for the error. 

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