A high school in Utah will drop its contentious “Redmen” mascot some 77 years after the Native American-themed image was adopted – but not before one dissenting board member blasted critics “from the outside” trying to affect local change.
The Iron County School District voted 3-2 late Tuesday to remove the mascot from Cedar High School after years of controversy that peaked in 2016, when a video circulated showing the school’s drill team wearing black wigs during a Native American-inspired dance routine, the Salt Lake City Tribune reports.
“I believe there is only one correct decision here: We need to … respectfully retire the Redmen mascot,” school board member Stephen Allen said.
Another supporter of the move, school member Michelle Lambert, said the mascot simply ate up too much of the district’s time.
“It’s a drain money-wise, a drain time-wise, and every time we have another viral video we have another crisis,” Lambert said.
But some opponents of the change, including board member Dale Brinkerhoff, dismissed the ongoing effort as the result of “people from the outside trying to tell those on the inside” that they should be offended by the image.
“If you don’t like our peaches, get the hell out of our tree,” Brinkerhoff said, garnering cheers of support from several who attended Tuesday’s meeting.
The name “Redmen,” according to the school’s website, was adopted by its student council in 1942 to represent the Native-Americans who lived in the area.
“The name was originally chosen for the athletic teams, but over time [represented] the whole student body,” the website reads. “The mascot, an Indian shield, has changed throughout the history of Cedar High School, but has always been true to its roots. Cedar High School students are expected to be ‘proud to be a Redmen!’ The mascot, Redmen, reminds all of us of the pride, nobility, and hard work it takes to achieve success.”
Lambert countered Brinkerhoff’s claim by noting that the only “outside special interest group” that chimed in on the controversy was the Native Americans Guardians Association, a North Dakota-based organization that supports keeping American Indian-related mascots. Other statements and letters received by the board were sent from Cedar City residents and high school alumni, she said.
“There’s no left-wing liberals, no outside group motivating this,” Lambert said.
A message seeking comment from the school district’s superintendent was not immediately returned Wednesday.
The Cedar Band of the Paiute Tribe of Utah, which is headquartered in Cedar City, did not request that the mascot be changed, but backed the district’s review of the name, according to an earlier press release by the district cited by KSL.
A committee formed to assess whether to change the mascot overwhelmingly voted 17-7 in January to recommend that it be dropped. The committee was not tasked with naming a new mascot, according to the station.
One senior at the high school who backed the push to remove the mascot said students who feel discriminated against by the name don’t speak up out of fears of making waves in the community.
“It’s hard standing up by myself,” student Thalia Guerrero told the Salt Lake City Tribune. “I think the change will be good. People shouldn’t have to walk through the school and automatically have to take a side.”