I read with interest your 18 December article on Poky High School’s new nickname, which seems to not yet have a mascot.

I especially enjoyed the part about Luke Smith’s arguments against “the Bison”—they were rational and pertinent. I would note, however, that Luke was more than a century off when he asserted that “Bison have not lived in Pocatello naturally for over three hundred years” and that “white settlers hunted them out of the area almost the second they [the settlers] got here.” Here’s a brief history lesson:

John Work’s journal, the basis for the book Snake Country Expedition of 1830-31, noted a significant population of “buffaloe” in this area. Work led a party of over one hundred (fur hunters, women, and children) and food was a daily concern. On 16 March 1831 he wrote, “Some Indians who have been two days up the river hunting, returned and represent the buffalo as dieing in great numbers, they are not able to feed on account of the hardness of the snow” (p. 84; spelling and sentencing is from the original). In a footnote to Work’s entry, the book’s editor— Francis Haines Jr.—stated, “The long, severe winter of 1830-31 is generally credited with destroying the buffalo herds of the Snake Country.” Fort Hall, the trading post, was established in 1834 near the confluence of the Portneuf and Snake Rivers. Trapper Osborne Russell, who came here around then, said that by the beginning of the 1840s buffalo were pretty much gone. The first Oregon Trail wagon trains crawled through in the early 1840s. The first settlers in eastern Idaho (as opposed to Indians or fur hunters or traders) were almost two decades in the future. Evidence is strong that extinction of buffalo in east Idaho was about 180 years ago, and settlers in this region had nothing to do with it. Indians and whites hunted them for their furs or hides or meat, but this was not the notorious massacre of the 1870s.

There are additional problems with “Bison” as a nickname and/or a mascot: American governmental policy after the Civil War (1861-65) advocated eradication of the buffalo on the Great Plains, where they were still plentiful when settlers started moving through to the Oregon Country. This policy aimed to destroy the foundation of Native Americans’ lifestyle: their food, their shelter, their homelands. Their identity. Adopting “Bison” as a nickname or a mascot would be adding much more than insult to people who came almost as near to extinction as did the buffalo. Plundering remains of their cultures (for nicknames, mascots, and logos) to superficially enhance our recreational games was one thing in an era when black people were still called “you know what.” Now? We should know better.

The school board did well in rejecting this option. They have displayed courage and good sense in proceeding to their decision. Sometimes the right thing is not the popular thing.

T. Magoon,

American Falls