Idaho School District Votes to Abandon Racist Mascot

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After receiving pressure from nearby Native American tribes, an Idaho school district has tentatively changed its racist nickname.

The Teton School District voted 4-1 this week to retire the high school’s controversial ‘Redskins’ nickname and mascot with the stipulation that no taxpayer money is used to fund the removal process. The board did not mandate when the mascot would change or its replacement, leaving that up to a community committee it will form next week.

According to the Idaho Statesman, two of the state’s largest Native American tribes, the Shoshone-Bannock and the Nez Perce, had publicly urged the district to make the change, citing the offensive nature of the word “Redskin” as a racial slur. 

“Yes, there are Native Americans that don’t have a problem with it,” board member Mary Mello told the Idaho Statesman in a phone interview Wednesday. “However, I think we need to listen to the statements of people that represent large groups of Native Americans."

Monte Wollstenhulme, the Teton School District superintendent, said at Tuesday's meeting that it would likely cost $30,000 to replace school uniforms and remove Redskin signage around the Driggs high school near the Idaho-Wyoming state line. That amounts to less than 1 percent of the district’s $14.5 million budget 

Ben Kearsley, the lone board member who voted against the change, hoped for more input from the community.

“I do feel there’s a way to come to a compromise,” Kearsley said during the online broadcast of the board meeting. “But by moving too fast, we remove some of the voices we’ve heard and close the door on our community. We’ll leave voices behind, and that’s the greatest community cost.”

Board chair Chris Isaacson asserted that the school and community are just trying to do the right thing.

“I don’t think there’s anybody on this board that doesn’t believe that (the mascot) was not done in respect and love and caring for the people who lived here in this valley,” she said. “We don’t want to lose that.”

Idaho still has 11 high schools that use Native American mascots: the Indians (Pocatello, Preston, Buhl, Shoshone, Nezperce), the Savages (Salmon, Salmon River), the Warriors (Meridian, Kootenai) and the Braves (Boise). The high school on the Fort Hall Reservation, home to the Shoshone-Bannock, is also known as the Sho-Ban Chiefs.

Salmon and Salmon River have officially abandoned the use of Native American images but still use the Savages nickname.

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