As the acting chairman of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes we were pleased with the recent announcement of the Washington Redskins recent name and logo change. It is encouraging to witness the unprecedented changes that are rapidly occurring as mainstream American society recognizes the need to break the systematic racial injustice. Even though the NFL team is located in Washington, D.C., the use of Native American themed mascots and names is and has been a local issue of concern here in Idaho.
Before I was voted in as the acting chairman of the Fort Hall Business Council, I have voiced my concerns at various protests in Salt Lake City and Boise and as a student at Idaho State University since 1996 and in 2002 on the changes of the Columbus Day Holiday. As a current leader, we are obligated to protect the health, welfare and safety of our tribal membership. For years, we have encountered physical, verbal threats, harassment and bullying to our young people at various sporting events related to mascot issues. In response, we sent out a position paper in 2019 on racism and mascots in Idaho schools that clearly states our opposition to racial misappropriation for school mascots in Idaho.
As a citizen of Idaho and a Tribal leader, I would hope that Idaho citizens recognize the value and benefits of having a diverse and rich culture we have in Idaho. Once we recognize and embrace Idaho’s diversity, only then can we help overcome the historical trauma that our tribal people have suffered since the reservation was created in the late 1800s. We, as the Council, encourage open communication with our city and state leaders and are available to provide additional educational opportunities for Idaho communities to better understand tribal history in Idaho. Fun fact: There are five reservations in Idaho. Fort Hall is the largest land base and population base reservation in Idaho.
I would like to extend an invitation to the local public schools for an open discussion on the use of Native American mascots. We understand that public schools are intended to be a safe and comfortable place of learning but often times, certain events occur that lead to bullying, harassment and misappropriation to our Tribal students (K-12). We hope we can arrange for future dialogue with school districts and municipal leadership that will hopefully lead to improving and transforming local and state race relations. From a Tribal perspective, what was once acceptable is no longer acceptable today.
Rather than focus on the negative history, the Tribes seek solutions to create educational opportunities to better understand a variety of perspectives, including Tribal history, government and cultures in Idaho. The Shoshone and Bannock people have a rich history in Southeast Idaho, which has been a significant part of the development of the state of Idaho and southern Idaho communities. We are your neighbor and we would like to offer our help to meet and discuss on this concern before the school year begins. Official letters have been sent in the mail this week to Idaho schools that have concerning mascots. We ask that those schools please contact our Office of Public Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a meeting with the Fort Hall Business Council. Thank you.
Kevin Callahan is the acting chairman of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes.