March 5, 2008 Edition

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ASU retires Indian Family as mascot

John Phillips of Walnut Ridge acknowledges applause during recognition of former Indian Family members at Arkansas State University. Phillips is a former Indian Brave and was instrumental in bringing back the Indian Family in the mid-1990s.
Submitted Photos ~ Arkansas State University

Chris Saito, son of Dr. Kim and Robin Saito of Jonesboro, served as the current and last Indian Brave at ASU. He participated in the ceremony to retire the Indian Family. Chris' mother grew up in Walnut Ridge, and his grandmother is Ruth (Mrs. Bob) Smith of Walnut Ridge.
Arkansas State University in Jonesboro officially retired the Indian Family as its mascot during halftime of the men's basketball game Thursday night at the Convocation Center.

ASU held "A Ceremony of Celebration, Recognition and Farewell," honoring both current and former members of the Indian Family. Carrying single feathers, former members of the Indian Family lined center court to welcome the current Indian Family into the arena.

The family of former ASU faculty member Dr. Gladys McPike Hudgins was recognized for her contribution to ASU as a long-time sponsor of and adviser to the Indian Family. She taught at Walnut Ridge High School before joining the faculty of what was then Arkansas State College.

Current Indian Family adviser and former Indian Brave John Phillips of Walnut Ridge and Genie Harrell were also recognized for their effort in bringing back the Indian Family in the mid-1990s.

A video was shown, featuring photos of the Indian Family throughout the years.

The current Indian Family entered the arena and saluted the crowd before each member presented an ASU representative with a commemorative item. The Indian Princess presented her belt to Director of Athletics Dr. Dean Lee. The Indian Brave presented his spirit stick to ASU Student Government President Morgan Pippin, and Chief Big Track presented a headdress to ASU Chancellor Dr. Robert L. Potts.

The Indian Family then waved their final goodbye to the crowd of more than 6,000 before leaving the floor for the last time.

Arkansas State introduced "Indians" as the official mascot in 1931. "Indians" is taken from the heritage of the state of Arkansas from the Osage tribe, which made its home in Northern Arkansas before white (or European) settlers arrived.

During the 18th century, the Osage were at war with nearly all other tribes of the plains as well as with the woodland tribes. For that reason, the name evolved from respect for the fighting spirit that dwelled among the Indians of Northern Arkansas.

The school's official athletic mascot, the Indian Family, is a trio of students attired in authentic Native American wear. Chief Big Track, named after the legendary chief of the Osage tribe, is the head of the family. There is also an unnamed princess and brave.

The ceremony ended a year-long project centered around following directives by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which declared that educational institutions with Native American nicknames and imagery would not be allowed to use the names or imagery at postseason competition.

In January, the Mascot Selection Steering Committee voted unanimously to recommend to Potts that "Wolves" be adopted as Arkansas State's new mascot.

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