BOUNTIFUL — As a petition to change Bountiful High School's mascot name — launched nearly a week ago — continues to gain momentum, a countermovement online to keep the Bountiful High mascot name has emerged.
The dueling petitions leave open a question: Is having a mascot name tied to Native Americans disrespectful or an honor? Ultimately, it's something Bountiful High School and Davis School District officials may have to sort out regarding the Braves mascot at the school that has existed since the 1950s.
The second petition was started by Brett Baker, a Salt Lake City resident and 2014 graduate of the high school. Baker said he was scrolling through Facebook when he saw a petition created by fellow Bountiful High School alumni Mallory Rogers and Mykala Rogers. It called for the school to remove the school’s mascot name.
“I kind of felt like this ‘cancel culture’ that’s been going on lately can be harmful. I just know the memories I have from Bountiful High and they weren’t the same as the girl who started this other petition had,” Baker said. “I’ve had really good experiences. Some of my friends at Bountiful were Native American and they didn’t have any issues — talking to a lot of them. They said they were proud to have the name at Bountiful.”
So Baker launched his own petition urging Davis County School District board members to keep the name.
Both petitions are on the platform Change.org and they’ve each received thousands of responses. As of noon Friday, Baker’s petition had more than 3,800 signatures; the original petition advocating changing the name had more than 3,100 signatures.
But both petitions, which were created by white individuals who once attended the school, have also received support from Native American groups for different reasons. And thus they are reopening thoughtful discussions about how minority groups are represented.
On Tuesday, the Utah League of Native American Voters released a scathing rebuke regarding the use of Native Americans as a mascot.
“Native mascots are harmful and antiquated; they have no place in our society,” the statement read, in part. “Mascots are generalized depictions, often characterized poorly, that dehumanize the hundreds of Native nations and their members.”
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the North Dakota-based Native American Guardian’s Association supported the petition to keep the Braves mascot name in a Facebook post. KSL.com reached out to the association for comment Thursday but did not receive a response by publication time.
The group has countered mascot name changes across the country. According to its website, it’s made up of Intertribal American Indians from across the country with a mission to “educate not eradicate” and “who see the American Indian as ‘out of sight out of mind.’" They add, "if current trends are left unchecked we will see a future where we are just a distant memory.”
“As Native American facts, images, names are being hidden from view and removed from history and indiscriminately, we will fight to preserve and perpetuate Native American culture,” the group states on its website.
Bountiful High School and Davis County School District leaders will have the final say on any decision. A spokesperson for the Davis County School District told KSL.com on Tuesday that it would likely take time before a decision would be made. It could mean there’s a lengthy discussion before Bountiful High makes a mascot name change. But that’s also what organizers from both petitions say they want.
“I don’t want to speak for the Native people. That’s not my goal. My goal is to start a conversation and, as a community, have a conversation about the implications — what are the ramifications of using Native American mascots? What message does that send?" Mallory Rogers said on Tuesday.
On the other side of the aisle, Baker agrees.
“I think a lot of time discussion has been taken out of things and I think emotions run high in situations like this and so I think being able to have civil discussions is a major part of being able to make things work and be able to progress things,” he said.