Summer is on its way and the bears have come out of their dens. At the same time, our community's tendency toward collective altercation has come out of hibernation in the exchanges over the high school mascot.
Pitting old timer versus newcomer, liberal against conservative, this fight has something for everybody. But for a moment, lets just talk about that Redskin mascot.
Fifty years ago, my high school team was the Warriors. We had a totem pole in the quad, the cheerleaders wore headbands with a feather on game days, and we had a shirtless guy prancing around the sidelines in a “war bonnet” at our games. My yearbook features rows and rows of pictures of my classmates, interspersed with Native American Elders. It shames me. We thought that was a good idea at the time. A half century ago. In Arkansas. Don’t be like Arkansas.
Our neighbors in the Shoshone Bannock Tribe have told us that the “Redskin” does not honor their heritage. It’s their heritage and I believe them. The heritage of this valley comes from our earliest permanent settlers, who were persecuted and forced to flee their homes, and faced extraordinary physical and mental hardships to carve out their meager existence. Many of those settlers were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and their descendants remain the bedrock of our community. If we want to “honor” that heritage let’s start with a new team name, The Mormons.
Church leaders ask that we don’t use that term anymore, but the whole name is too long for uniforms and the embroidery alone would cost a fortune, so let’s go with the Fighting Mormons.The Marching Missionaries Band will lead the team onto the field, and our cheerleaders, the Sister Wives, will cheer: IAM1RU, Yahoo! Handcarts in the homecoming parade would be encouraged. But we would NEVER do that because that would be offensive. That’s not honoring the heritage of our elders any more than using “Redskin” honors Native Americans. We’re better than that.
Some suggest we let the kids decide, and at first glance that seems like a good idea, but at 17 I thought Sitting Bull would want to be a part of the graduating class and I know now that’s not true. As a tax payer who has supported all of the education funding initiatives and has volunteered in our public schools, I believe Teton High School represents our whole valley and our opinions count too. How about we call our school teams the Teton Trailblazers? Nice alliteration, and works for everything from football, to the debate team. Our mascot? A hawk or Golden Eagle would be nice. Keen eyed, swift and ferocious, circling its prey and streaking in for the victory. No one is offended and our kids can be proud of their school and their mascot.
And then we can all get back to what we really enjoy fighting about: politics and zoning. Or, a better idea, we can just enjoy the fact that we survived and thrived through this epic winter and celebrate the coming sunshine season with our Teton Valley neighbors.