Retiring of School Mascot
Editor's note: This letter was sent to Superintendent Monte Woolstenhulme and the Teton Valley News via Kayeloni Scott, Communications Manager for the Nez Perce Tribe.
The Nez Perce Tribe (Tribe), is aware that Teton School Board is again discussing retirement of the School District's "Redskins" mascot. The Tribe reiterates its support to retire the mascot, as first noted in the attached 2013 letter. We were disappointed that the issue was tabled but are heartened that the community desires to continue the conversation.
According to the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), the term "redskins" is rooted in government bounty announcements calling for the bloody scalps of Native Americans in the 1800's. From there, the term has been carried on as a racial slur in popular culture. The NCAI has taken a position opposing any school's use of Native American mascots, especially the "redskins" term. In 2005, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) established an extensive policy to remove harmful "Indian" mascots. Encouragingly, the NCAI reports that in the last 25 years, 28 high schools in 18 states have dropped "redskins" from their mascots' name. We urge you to join them.
A 2004 study by Dr. Stephanie Fryberg showed that stereotypes perpetuated by the use of such mascots have a damaging psychological impact on young Native people as the imagery is typically cartoonish and dehumanizing. The use of these mascots can erode the self-confidence and sense of identity of Native youth, their view of the world, and their place in it. These images also affect how society views Native people and provides an inaccurate portrayal of Native contributions to society.
We understand that school alumni may have a well-formed connection with the mascot, however, we believe that the harm of using such a mascot outweighs any benefit of that connection. The Tribe appreciates and fully supports the Driggs/Victor community's continuing effort to shed the disparaging term "redskins" from its mascot. We are encouraged by the communities' on-going efforts, and we fully support the School District adopting a different and more appropriate mascot. Thank you.
Shannon F. Wheeler