Here is a review of some of the rebranding efforts so far during 2019:
Cedar High School in Utah sends Redmen Packing
This past February, the Iron County School Board voted 3-2 to retire Redmen, the name and mascot for seven decades, of the Cedar High School in Utah. This vote follows a 17-7 vote of a community committee composed of students, alumni, and tribal members. This committee held three hearings. As well as being considered a racial slur, the name helped promote bullying of Native American students on-line and on campus.
T Carter, historian, researcher and activist based in Northern Virginia, said “Cedar High School in Utah welcomed communications from current students, alumni, the local community and activists from across the United States who work to change disparaging and stereotypical Native American names and mascots. I actively participated in the spirited and passionate debates for months. After sincere listening and thoughtful consideration, the school board voted to change the racist name and mascot. This is a victory for indigenous people, as well as the entire Cedar High student body, teachers, staff and the entire community. I hope other schools and professional sports teams will follow this wise decision.”
McGill University Also Retires Redmen
McGill University in Montreal, Canada has been known as the Redmen since the 1920s. At first, the name was a reference to the color of the uniforms but it eventually it represented indigenous peoples. A member of the men’s rowing team from the Kainai First Nation in southern Alberta initiated a petition drive last year that gathered 10,000 signatures.
Suzanne Fortier, the university principal and vice chancellor, wrote in a letter announcing the change, “Intention, however benign, does not negate prejudicial effect. Inclusion and respect are at the core of our university’s principles and values; pejoratives run contrary to who we are as a community. For these reasons, the Redmen name is not one that our community would choose today, and it is not one that McGill should carry forward into our third century.”
McGill will start a process for selecting a new name and mascot before the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
In 1994, St. John’s University changed its name from Redmen to Red Storm. In 1972, the University of Massachusetts changed its name from Redmen to Minutemen.
Sequoia High School in Redwood City, California
It took 17 years but the school district this April decided to shed the name Cherokees and replace it with Ravens. In 2002, students and teachers asked the district to change the mascot and name, saying both were offensive. The district dropped the Native American mascot but kept the name Cherokees. Even earlier in 2000, Chad Smith, a Cherokee school principal wrote that “Sports teams use an American Indian mascot to project an image that is savage and warrior-like, as portrayed in stereotypical imagery of the Hollywood movie. The Cherokee people do not perceive conceptual symbolism or symbolic behavior (e.g.,the tomahawk chop or stereotypical drumming or chanting) as respectful of our culture. There is no honor is seeing our culture being trivialized and exploited.”
In 2018, students and teachers again took up the cause, circulating petitions with 600 signatures. They presented the results of a survey in which 754 out of 1,209 respondents said the name should be retired. The board saw the wisdom in the activism of the students and teachers and voted to retire Native American themes completely.
Fairview Park City, Ohio
For decades, Fairview Park City schools were called the Warriors and had Native American logos and mascots that would dance at school games. This all ended in April.
“The district had put their foot down and said that we will not be dressing anyone up like a Native American and putting them on the sidelines of events,” said Chris Vicha, principal of Fairview High School and Lewis F. Mayer Middle School. “We’re not going to do that anymore. We don’t believe in that.”
Vicha is working with students, coaches, and community members to come up with a new mascot, logo, and name. The timing is right as the school grounds are undergoing renovations. This process of rebranding can be energizing, which Mr. Snyder could also use to rally fans around his team. Vicha continues, “The buzz in the building right now is fantastic. Our current student body is extremely excited about this.”
Skowhegan Area High School, Maine
This March, the Skowhegan school board voted 14-9 to retire its Native American mascot and logo. This was the last high school in Maine to rebrand. The state is now free of racially insensitive names and mascots. The Penobscot Nation led efforts to retire the name, calling it racist. Supporters said the name honored Native Americans. The Governor of Maine, Janet Mills, urged the district to retire the name.
Yet, the issue may not be settled. Supporters of the name are pressing for a referendum. This advocacy prompted opponents in the state legislature to prepare legislation prohibiting the use of Native American logos and mascots. As the controversy continues, RWF hopes that the stakeholders listen to the indigenous community that is clearly against the name and logo.