This past week, I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed and saw a post about the recommendation that my high school mascot be changed. I attended Cedar High School, and my mascot was the Redmen.
When I saw the post, and the subsequent posts that suddenly appeared on my news feed, a flood of thoughts went through my head.
First, I was bummed. As an athlete and member of the student body, I was taught “Redmen Pride,” and I was proud. I loved my team and student body, and the mascot was one of the many things that brought us together.
However, I knew the term “Redmen” has been seen as derogatory for Native Americans, and I thought of all my friends who have Paiute ancestry, and I didn't want them to be hurt by something as simple as a mascot.
Yet, as I read many of the comments on the posts, I found that many were made by friends from the local Paiute community who opposed the change, stating they were proud to be Redmen. Many feared this move would silence them even more, both in the community and as a culture as a whole.
As I immersed myself in the comments, I remembered one assembly when I was in middle school where men, women and children from the Paiute community came in their native dress to sing and dance for us.
Having recently moved to Cedar City from a more urban town, I had never seen anything like this. I was immediately drawn into this performance and wanted to learn more. I recall one of the girls on stage was in my class, and I felt a bit envious of her close tie to the traditions of her ancestors. There was a reverence about this performance that I still feel today when I think about it.
Years later, I was walking to class behind a good friend and teammate who was the subject of some ridicule due to her Paiute culture. The boys walking with her said something to the effect of, “It looks like you've been smoking a little too much peyote.” Right then, she turned to the boys and gave them a quick yet stern education on how sacred peyote was to her culture and that they had no business putting it down. Needless to say, the boys clammed up, and we all learned something that day. I gained new tolerance and respect for things in a culture that I did not understand.12 comments on this story
Now, as a white girl who graduated from CHS with Redmen Pride to boot, I don't have a right to a voice in this debate. Even so, I hope that this decision to change the mascot does not silence the great culture that is a benefit to us all. I hope it will bring forth not only what Native Americans have endured, but what they bring to our nation: a rich culture filled with love, simplicity, joy, color, music, art and resilience in the face of struggle.
I am still proud to be numbered among the blessed group of Cedar High alumni (and people around the world, for that matter) who have benefited from the rich Native American history that should never be silenced.