Teton School District makes right decision to drop Redskins mascot

By: 
By Steve Lyon
The Teton School District trustees
in eastern Idaho did the right
thing recently by voting to retire
the name Redskins as the school mascot
after 90 years.
The decision by the school board
came down to a 4-1 vote. The divisive
issue of the Redskins mascot had been a
point of discussion for years
in the community and it
wasn’t going to go away.
The school district superintendent
floated the idea
to do away with the Redskins
mascot back in 2013.
Six years of inaction by the
school district and unending
rancorous debate followed.
Retiring the Redskins
mascot came down to the
convictions of individual
board members in the face
of some heated opposition
to change and accusations of
bowing to political correctness.
No doubt the school board got pushback
from the longtime high school
mascot boosters. You can bet the words
“tradition” and “school pride” came up
in the loud arguments to keep the Redskins
name.
According to a news release after the
historic vote on July 16, the district will
not spend taxpayer dollars to replace
the mascot image on buildings and uniforms,
etc. It’s estimated the transition
costs could be about $30,000.
The school district will solicit input
from the community on what the new
mascot will be and develop a plan for
the high school going forward.
Why did the Teton School District decide
on Redskins as a mascot, anyway?
Obviously, that was the degrading term
in use to describe Native
Americans 90 years ago, but
it wasn’t the only history.
The area was first visited
by French furtrappers, who
actually named the famous
Tetons. Later, pioneers arrived
to settle the beautiful
Teton Valley and farm.
Why not come up with a
new mascot that doesn’t offend
anyone? How about the
Frenchies or the Spuds or
the Mountain Men?
I’ve heard specious arguments
elsewhere that a
mascot name like the Redskins is really
a sort of tribute to the fierce and proud
Native Americans, that the name actually
honors them. It’s a weak argument
that seeks to hold on to a “contemptuous
characterization of Native Americans as
savages,” as one eloquent writer put it.
We don’t use racial slurs against Italians
or Basque or Irish or Japanese anymore.
Why is it fine to continue when
it comes to sports teams and Native
Americans? Members of the Shoshone
Bannock and Nez Perce tribes in Idaho
found the Redskin mascot offensive.
Boise High School has a Native
American-themed mascot as well in the
Braves. Maybe Braves is more tolerable
than Redskins as far as mascots go. I
haven’t seen a concerted effort to retire
it, but it too represents a stereotype image
whose time has come and gone.
I knew a newspaper publisher and
editor who fought a similar mascot fight
20 years ago in a small town in Oregon.
He led the effort to get the high school
mascot name Savages replaced.
It takes a pretty thick skin to take on
a fight like that in a small community.
He railed in editorial after editorial in
the weekly newspaper he ran that it was
time to drop the Savages.
He was accused of fomenting discontent,
of intentionally stirring a putrid pot
of political correctness. They just about
tarred and feathered him and ran him out
of town, but in the end he and like-minded
citizens prevailed. The high school
mascot is now the Outlaws.
The Salmon River High School
mascot is also the Savages. Hopefully,
someone will inform the good folks in
Salmon that they ought to find another
name in the future.
If they need any ideas for a new mascot,
I can offer a few.
Steve Lyon is the editor of the Weiser
Signal American. Contact him at

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Signal American

18 E. Idaho St.
Weiser, ID 83672
PH: (208) 549-1717
FAX: (208) 549-1718
 

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