OWEGO, N.Y. (WIVT/WBGH) – After transitioning away from its previous Indian mascot, the Owego Apalachin Central School District has chosen a new way to show school spirit.

The district announced that Owego Free Academy will now be known as the River Hawks, effective immediately.

According to the district, the River Hawk mascot honors the thousand-year history of Native Americans in Owego and Apalachin. The River Hawk is said to be a reflection of the local environment, wildlife, and serves as a tribute to the region’s connection to the Susquehanna River. The name also honors the indigenous people of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, commonly known as the Iroquois or Six Nations, which included the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora tribes.

“Our district is dedicated to creating an environment that fosters respect, understanding, and unity among all students. I’d like to thank the members of our various committees, especially those students and staff, who have been the driving force behind gathering and analyzing the thoughts and data collected during this process,” said Dr. Corey Green, Superintendent of the Owego Apalachin Central School District.

In April, the New York State Education Department ruled to ban the use of Native American nicknames and imagery in educational institutions in order to move away from stereotypes and cultural insensitivity as a way to make school a safe and respectful place for all who attend.