BOUNTIFUL — Starting this fall, no student will appear at Bountiful High School’s athletic events wearing a Native American costume.
Davis School District spokesman Christopher Williams said Monday that Bountiful High Principal Aaron Hogge told him in a recent conversation that “the portrayal of the mascot will not continue.”
A student outfitted in a Native American costume has been a longtime practice at Bountiful High football games and basketball games.
“That will not occur going forward this next year,” Williams said.
Hogge, who has been principal of Bountiful High for three years, has “slowly moved away from using a Native American male as a logo. Right now their logo is a block B and an arrow or a feather, depends what version they use,” Williams said.
Williams said the school district is developing a formal process to discuss what has become a public divide over whether the school’s “Braves” mascot should be retained.
Some say it is time to retire the mascot because it is derogatory and demeaning, while others say it is a long-held tradition that honors Native Americans. Bountiful High School opened in 1951 and is Davis County’s second-oldest high school, “so there’s quite a bit of allegiance to Bountiful High,” Williams said.
Williams said the school district is at the start of a dialogue which will include reaching out to indigenous tribal representatives and “becoming educated on their view of what has been portrayed by the mascot. In some people’s minds, it may be a mascot. In other people’s minds it is something that is ceremonial and religious and should not be a costume. So that’s where we start with the whole process. It won’t happen overnight. It’s not going to be something that is decided before the first football game,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Washington Redskins organization announced Monday that the professional football team will change its team name and logo amid public and corporate pressure to do away with the moniker over racial connotations.
The NFL franchise has not yet selected a replacement for the team’s mascot and logo.
Asked if that decision would hasten conversations and deliberations about the future of the Bountiful “Braves” mascot, Williams said, “I don’t think so. I don’t think so at all.”
Williams said the board has no formal process to retire a mascot, and at the moment the board and district are intensely focused on ensuring a safe and successful reopening of schools amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
At the same time, the school district and school board recognize the mascot debate is important, and each wants to take time to make thoughtful, well-researched decisions, he said.
“First off, we have to make sure that we have a true process in place so that we don’t make a decision hastily, that we don’t begin a process in which people feel like ‘my viewpoint even wasn’t even listened to, let alone considered,’” Williams said.
The district plans to create an email address where people can express their points of view, which will help inform the decisions whether the mascot should stay or go. If a decision is made to retire the mascot, the board would need to establish a process to select a new mascot.
The only process the board has in place now is to select a mascot as part of the opening of a new school.
In 2018, the National Education Association passed a resolution that calls on the nation’s largest teacher union to support the removal of “R-skins, Braves, Indians and Warriors mascots and the imagery associated with each from public schools.”
First off, we have to make sure that we have a true process in place so that we don’t make a decision hastily, that we don’t begin a process in which people feel like 'my viewpoint even wasn’t even listened to, let alone considered.'
–Davis School District spokesman Christopher Williams
In a recent video posted on the NEA’s Twitter feed, Tracy Hartman-Bradley, an educator in the Omaha Public Schools and a member of NEA’s board of directors, said such mascots do not honor Native Americans.
The term “Redskin” is particularly derogatory, she said.
“A lot of people don’t realize that it was the bloody scalps of the native people and we’re talking about millions of Native people that were killed. And, to us, it’s just as derogatory as any other ethnic, racial slur when it comes to mascots and stereotype issues,” said Hartman-Bradley, who is the Native American specialist for the Omaha schools and a Native Alaskan Alutiiq.
The use of such mascots “lowers the self-esteem of our Native students and discriminates and is just very racist,” she said.
Schools should honor Native Americans by teaching students about their cultures, traditions and art “and all the wonderful aspects of being Native.”
When taught correctly, it’s “such a positive and it’s so powerful.”