Nezperce gym

The Indian head on the Bradley Gymnasium floor has been replaced by a large N.

This likely isn’t going to be a popular opinion, but hear me out: Nezperce Indians, it’s time to change our mascot.

The tribes - specifically the Nez Perce - have been asking us for years to make the change. Now, the Shoshone and Bannock tribes have submitted a position paper to the State Board of Education, saying that using mascots such as “Indians,” “Redskins, “Braves” and “Savages” amounts to racial misappropriation.

Teton is changing its mascot from the Redskins. The Boise Braves are dropping the “s” to become the Boise Brave. Dozens of other schools across the country have changed their mascots.

Nezperce needs to make the change, too.

When I started working on this column, I thought “if it upsets the Nez Perce Indians, we should just change it”. After contacting the tribe, however, I realized we really need to do it for ourselves, as well.

The tribes’ position is that the mascots do not honor Native Americans.

“The continued use of these names would only honor the non-Indian ideology created by dominant mainstream society, whose ancestors directly or indirectly killed, sold, removed, or demoralized the original Indian residents,” the Shoshone and Bannock tribes state in the letter to the State Board of Education.

Bill Picard of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee replied in a similar vein.

We need a mascot we can truly embrace. You may have noticed that the painting of the Indian head at center court in Bradley Gymnasium has been painted over with a large “N”. Images of Indians are being removed from NHS uniforms, clothing, etc. We don’t have a student dressed up as our mascot ever.

A poll was done five years ago asking people if they would be supportive if the school board decided to change the mascot. The results: 64 “no” responses; 44 “yes” responses.

We’ve been inching toward this change and, as one former school board member said to me, it’s inevitable.

Let’s be proactive and make the change - on our own terms - before the State Board of Education or the Idaho Legislature forces us to do it.

And yes, I have a suggestion (from my cousin Sam): The Nezperce Thrashers. Nice nod to agriculture while actually meaning “someone who defeats thoroughly.” Seems like a win-win. We could come up with a cool logo of a farmer holding a scythe.

I know change can be difficult, letting go of traditions can be painful and there will be some resistance. It will also come at a cost to the school. Marci Stapleton, Kathy Harris, Melody Riggers and Co. will have to come up with new cheers. But the sooner it’s done the sooner we can start building new traditions around a mascot that truly represents our community.

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