Steven McCurdy

Steven McCurdy

Dealing with the elites at School District 25 is always like going to war. They make every disagreement a battle, every dissent a lose-lose proposition. Save Pocatello High School is once again fighting the school district’s inability to listen to their constituents. It is why so many are pushing to have board members recalled.

Here are several reasons why:

1. The School Board of Trustees seems unwilling to discuss issues face-to-face with constituents. They say it is illegal to meet with constituents outside of a formal meeting, yet they meet all the time with individuals of their choosing without acknowledging those discussions in board meetings.

2. The school district and trustees pretend to listen but often don’t. They fail to respond or acknowledge receipt of constituent letters and opposition petitions.

3. They limit fair debate and dialogue by reducing the time and opportunity the public has to respond to any given issue. For example: the mascot debate and last year’s architecture debate were exceptionally limited. The surveys they conduct are “advisory only” and often with limited scope and with built-in bias.

While district employees are given ample time to create a propaganda campaign to support their desired position, the public is not. The district’s purpose is to push their ideas through with rapid-fire precision while destroying all opposition.

Controversial issues are often discussed after long weekends and work meetings are held in the middle of the day when citizens are at work and unable to attend.

This is not fair, open or right.

4. The Trustees are closed-minded. They often come with their minds made up even before they hear differing points of view. i.e. listen to Janie Gebhardt talk about the mascot issue on Sept. 8. This is not an individual who is listening with an open mind.

When the request to retire the “Indians” was finally announced, Pocatello High School Principal Lisa Delonas asked the Board of Trustees “NOT TO LISTEN” to opposing points of views. This was undemocratic and wrong. The school board, taking her advice, granted only a week for public comment.

In the mascot case, the school district used public resources and personnel to craft their message for an entire month. Those “in the know” were told to keep this information from “getting out to the public.”

A year ago, Pocatello High School Principal Delonas said concerning the architecture debate, “I don’t know why they (the school board) don’t just listen.” Now she doesn’t want to listen to constituents either. She has discovered what the school district and board has known for years, that “power” means “not having to listen.”

School board meetings are often stage crafted, with school district employees soliciting voices of support and presenting the Board of Trustees only the one-side of an issue with which they already agree. They can decide half the town is bigoted and eliminate almost all discussion on the pros and cons of destroying a 100-year-old tradition in a week, or decide the fate of a school building in two, but if a controversial decision has already been decided (as many believe the mascot decision has been), they will extend it out for weeks and hype their willingness to deliberate. It is these types of ploys commonly employed by School District 25 that reduces trust, good will and faith with the public and why I suspect that School Board Trustees will be recalled.

Save Pocatello High School is also fighting to preserve the Indian logo. We are opposed to the elimination of history, culture and grand traditions. We believe that to eradicate is simply to forget.

The once unified voices of Native Americans and the citizens of Pocatello should not be forgotten. All came together in the early 1900s to educate the students of Pocatello High School. When they chose the “Indian” as the high school mascot it was an example of mutual cooperation, respect, and multiculturalism at its best.

The “Pocatello Indian” was a symbol of pride, strength and honor. Over the years, one can literally find hundreds of stories of unity and partnership between the students, Native Americans and the community.

My own mother, an alumnus of Pocatello High School, came to the relighting of the Indian neon sign, in the freezing cold and proudly sang, “We are loyal to you Poky High.”

Today the School District has no loyalty. The are selling our heritage. They are canceling the Indians. They have forgotten what once united us. Native Americans from the tribes worked with the high school to share their culture and history. They taught the cheer clubs dances, how to make head dresses, and moccasins. One Sho-Ban girl became head cheerleader and served the community admirably. Yes, loyalty has faded; however, many of us current and former Pocatello High School Indians are still LOYAL to Pocatello High School and to the grand ideals that were cherished and we believe it is tradition worth fighting for.

Save Pocatello High School is fighting against the cultural eradication of not only these particular stories, but many others like them. We are fighting because the school district wants to rewrite history and make us believe that this community cooperation and united effort was a product of supremacy and bigotry. The family of Chief Pocatello doesn’t think so. The Native American Guardian Association doesn’t think so. And we know it is not so.

At the School Board meeting on Nov. 17, Jackie Cranor, said that “we can keep our memories,” that we will “always be Pocatello Indians.”

But if we eliminate the Indians, we know this will not be true.

If being the Pocatello Indians is “racist,” as the school district claims, then being a Pocatello High School Indian is “racist.”

If being a Pocatello High School Indian is “racist,” then keeping our “Pocatello Indian memories” is simply holding on to our failed “racist” past. The best that can be said is that, “we,” the Pocatello High School alumni,” didn’t know any better.”

In other words, we were simply unaware that “we were racist.”

If we give up the Indians, soon after, that acquiescence will then be used as the very proof of their claim and before long it will not be enough to have given up the mascot, one will be required to acknowledge that “that racist past” is in fact “racist” and then these same social justice warriors will demand that you CALL it “racist.”

The irony, at this point, will be that the very past that they claim, “you can keep,” you will no longer want. However, then you will not be allowed to forget. That new education display room that will house the neon Indian sign, as envisioned, will become a monument to that so-called “racist” past.”

This is not loyalty to truth. This is not loyalty to history. The school district is attempting to rewrite the story of how Pocatello High School became the Pocatello Indians and they are turning the story of our shared history into something ugly, distorted and wrong.

Now maybe it is time to get a new mascot? Perhaps we are no longer worthy of this proud inheritance? It is an important discussion and debate with Native Americans and others coming down on both sides of the issue (which proves it is not a race issue). We are fighting this decision because the school board short-circuited that much need discussion — a white-wash of facts and truth.

With the removal of the Indian name and logo, within a generation the students of Pocatello will have no interest, no knowledge, no comprehension of the once-proud history that united the Sho-Ban people and the citizens of Pocatello High School. They will be concerned with the Phantoms, or the Eagles, or whatever other inane mascot is chosen. It simply will no longer be important. And we will have missed the opportunity to educate them on how our community was once united behind a Native American people and common educational goals.

We are fighting because our common heritage is unique, and proud, and honorable and because our culture will be the poorer without it. We are fighting because this heritage deserves to be preserved and not tainted by false allegations of bigotry

We are fighting because if we allow the eradication of this common history we will have allowed the elites on the school board to define good citizens, alumni and supporters of Pocatello High School and even Native Americans and the family of Chief Pocatello as racists. We will have forever destroyed the bond of good people once forged in a common cause and we will be complicit in once again eradicating the Indians — their history and their story. Yes, the school district and Board of Trustees has chosen to erase the Indians. They have chosen to eradicate that shared history from amongst us ...

and that is what racism truly is.

To sign the petition to save the Indian mascot, visit www.change.org/PocatelloIndians.

Pocatello native Steven McCurdy is a cultural travel documentary filmmaker and is on the board of the Beaux-Arts Academy, a school in Provo, Utah, that teaches classical art and architecture. McCurdy currently resides in South Jordan, Utah.