POCATELLO — A Pocatello man with a deep history at Pocatello High School plans to attend the meeting of the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District 25 Board of Trustees at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to advocate for the board to put the question of a new PHS mascot up for a public vote.
Jeff Edwards says that’s a better route to go than just having the board pick a name.
The board has currently chosen to drop the Indians mascot and replace it with either Bison, Phantoms, Thunder or Wolves.
District spokeswoman Courtney Fisher says the next step is to get more board comments as far as selecting the next mascot.
“We’re going to present a couple ideas to them to get their input,” Fisher said.
But Edwards, 64, who was student body president of the school in 1975, has seen this controversy firsthand before.
He was there in 1973 when an issue first arose over a PHS mascot called Oske-Ow-Wow.
It was considered an offensive symbol, he said. But it was done away with in 1973. And headdresses for the cheerleaders were done away with in the late 1970s even though the headdresses had a long history and had been used by many for 100 years.
But Edwards takes issue with doing away with the Indians mascot for Pocatello High School and sees no reason for it.
He believes many other people feel the same way and that five people on the school board shouldn’t have the final say on the matter.
For example, an online petition started by Steven McCurdy at Change.org had 3,878 people in favor of retaining the Indians mascot name as of Monday.
Edwards says that’s an indication that while the five board members think they’re doing the right thing, they’re not. Competing petitions demanding the removal of the Indians mascot also received thousands of signatures.
“Let the people vote and what it comes down to is if the people say change it — change it,” he said. “But not until then.”
Edwards said that so many people had no problems for 100 years with the mascot. And he wishes the school board members had a longer history in the community.
“There’s no way if any of them had lived here their whole lives they would ever think of changing this name,” Edwards said.
He says a vote of everyone living in Bannock County seems like it would be the best way to decide the issue.
“Bannock County cares about our problems,” he said. “Everyone’s gone to that school.”
Edwards said his sister and sons went to Pocatello High School.
And he says it wouldn’t be a life or death issue if the board just waited another year to allow time for a vote to settle the issue.
“It’ll still be there, but you’re not going to do something that’s so harmful to the community,” he said.
Plus, Edwards is worried about the potential for a ripple impact and setting a precedent due to the board’s actions.
“Are we going to have animal activists go to Highland (High School) and say you can’t have a ram (mascot) no more?” he said.
He says, in effect, the school board has overreached.
“I would not have five people on the board control thousands of people,” Edwards said.
He also believes there’s support from Fort Hall residents for keeping the Indians mascot. Some of them have kids who play sports for Pocatello High, he said.
In fact, he compares the idea of changing the current mascot to someone going to Harvard and asking them to change their name.
“They’d laugh at you in a minute,” Edwards said.
And he doesn’t think the board’s statement that the matter is decided should be the last word.
“It’s got to be done right,” Edwards said. “If this city and this community want to change it let them decide.”
And he’s not the only one with strong feelings on the matter.
Activist Steven McCurdy points to the strong response at his change.org petition effort at SAVE THE POCATELLO INDIAN LOGO ( Mascot) as an indication of the depth of the public’s feelings about the issue.
“We are sure that the majority of people would like to keep Indians as the logo,” McCurdy said.
For instance, Jennifer Gordon wrote at the site: “As a PHS alumni and member of the Shoshone-Bannock tribe, I urge the school board to halt any plans to retire the Indians mascot. PHS has a long history of respectfully honoring the mascot and all that it stands for.”
So McCurdy believes there’s even a strong enough response that they can make a push for new members on the school board if need be.
And Edwards points to that as further evidence not to rush things.
“There’s too many people that believe the way I believe and we’re not letting five people decide it,” Edwards said. “Let the majority of the people vote.”
The district office is located at 3115 Pole Line Road in Pocatello.