In my classroom this week at Pocatello High School my sophomore students have shared their thoughts on the potential retirement of our Indian mascot. Here are some of their words.
“It doesn’t feel right to have a race as a mascot.”
“I don’t think our mascot is offensive.”
“Will we have to change Loyalty?”
“It will be different, but we can do this together.”
“Why are we being punished for what other schools do?”
“The new mascot might not seem like us.”
“Why isn’t Preston changing their mascot?”
“Since most mascots are animals, it seems derogatory to have people as a mascot.”
“I just don’t want our new mascot to be lame.”
I am excited for the opportunity our students may have to practice empathy, to build something new, and to show respect to our Native American students and neighbors by retiring our beloved mascot.
I see this as a clear choice for our school board. The request is being made by our principal with the support of all teachers, coaches and staff. Leaders from the Shoshone Bannock tribe have asked for the change, and a preponderance of research shows how damaging the status quo is.
Perhaps a more difficult choice lies in how we make the change. I am sure some Poky alumni will want to fight this change. I know much of this will come from a place of love and nostalgia for their time as PHS Indians. I am asking that we turn our focus on our current students' needs instead. Let’s not leave them in limbo. I fear they will be harmed by a long drawn out process with the potential for vitriol attacks. Our students have questions; they have concerns, but mostly they want to talk about ideas for new mascots and are looking towards the future.