Whatever happened to …

… that school mascot?

Over the years, at different educational institutions, I’ve been a:

  • Warrior
  • Golden Hawk
  • Varsity Blue
  • Mustang
  • Lancer
  • Sabre

But it was a high school class reunion where we had a sports discussion, that I realized that I had another school mascot.  For the most part, the reunion was filled with people who had played on a number of sports teams.  The topic of discussion was that the school had a new name for the sports team since we were there.  They were now the Phoenix.

That wasn’t what we were when we played school sports.  We had either red or blue uniforms and we were the Redmen.  It wasn’t something that was displayed on our uniforms; I remember them as pretty bland. But, when we got school letters or awards, it had the image on them of the romantic notion of a First Nations people, complete with head dress.

I always thought that it was a strange thing; there were no First Nations peoples all that close to us.  The Saugeen Nation was north in Bruce County, the Chippewa Nation was south in Lambton County, and the Oneida Nation was in Middlesex County.  Yet, somehow, that was what we had at our secondary school.  I don’t know the history of it; you don’t have a choice when you go to school.  It’s just there.

The choice of moving to the Phoenix wasn’t a recent one.  It was a decision that was made a few years ago.  Changing made a great deal of sense, especially now that we are dealing with the whole concept of reconciliation.

Now, a small secondary school in mid-western Ontario isn’t going to change the world but it was the right thing to do.  There are more significant changes that could be made and I’ll ask for your opinion below.

So, for a Sunday, your thoughts …

  • Does your school use a First Nations’ representation for a mascot?
  • Can you name a school that made a change like my old secondary school did?
  • How do you feel about the refusal of professional sports teams to replace their logo in 2017 – Cleveland Indians, Washington Redskins, Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Chiefs … ?
  • Is it important to retain tradition at the expense of offending others?

Please share your thoughts in the comment below.  I’d be very interested in reading them.

You can check out all of the posts in this series here.

Got an idea for a future post?  Let me know here.

4 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …

  1. Hi Doug,
    I never actually went to any school that used a name that could be associated with a First Nations people. Our Board recently mandated that all such names be changed as well, although these were already very few. I think it is the right thing to change these names. Why give offence or perpetuate stereotypes when it is so easy to avoid? It may seem strange to alumni but I believe that it would have very little negative impact on our students. In fact, handled properly, it could have a profoundly positive impact because it would start a conversation about why these names are inappropriate and into a respectful inquiry into the true history and cultures of indigenous peoples. I like to believe that (as a history major) I had a very good understanding of this already, but this year I read the excellent book “The Inconvenient Indian.” Very readable and balanced and it filled in a lot of gaps for me. I highly recommend it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Since the early 90’s: Trojan, Spartan, Warrior, and Tartan.

    When I was Principal of Western Secondary, the students and teachers started an initiative to change the mascot from ‘Warrior’ to something new. This wasn’t because of any indigenous implications. Our ‘warrior’ was clearly, from all representations, classical in nature, looking the same as a Trojan or Spartan. In fact, a famous local artist and alumnus had painted our mascot and it hangs in the main office.

    The reasoning behind the drive for change was the negative stigma associated with the school as a place for students with learning disabilities. Students purposefully mispronounced the name of the school and mascot to drive the point home to me, and because the students were asking for the change I supported it.

    We held a contest to come up with a new name and asked the community and alumni what they thought of the whole idea. We ended up leaning towards ‘Wolverines,’ but three problems emerged: alumni were upset at the idea of change; the student’s artwork for the wolverine, which teachers and many kids loved, was clearly plagiarized from other institutions; and the students who had mispronounced the school and mascot’s name initially were sad to realize that the same could happen with any new mascot.

    In the end, the initiative lost steam and was put aside.

    Having gone through it, I saw the exercise as valuable and would go through it again if necessary, but the need never arose.

    I finished my career as a Tartan at Walkerville and always found it humourous that our mascot was a piece of fabric. Students and staff found it funny as well but took a strange pride in the fact the mascot was so completely inoffensive.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Good questions for a Sunday. I think tradition is overrated, to me it can represent bad thinking – we have always done things this way so we are just going to continue. Those schools and teams that continue to use inappropriate nicknames like ‘Braves’ “Chiefs’ etc need to enter the 21st Century and stop clinging to useless traditions.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Since childhood, I have been a Brave (at Tecumseh)(now Firebirds, still using tribal-style art), a Panther, a Lion, a Gee-Gee (that’s a horse, and a brilliant bilingual mascot name), a Lancer. Then as a teacher, I have been a Wildcat, a Viper, a Tiger, a Panther (again, at a different school), a raccoon, a falcon, and now I’m apparently Thunder. (I don’t think I can be a thunder). Two of my schools have served First Nations communities, and it would be interesting to know if historically those schools had culturally appropriated names.

    When my students did their survey this year on changing attitudes towards First Nations peoples, the overwhelming response (and we had over 600 respondents) to the question “what do you think of the Cleveland Indians mascot” was that it was an antiquated, appalling image that needed to be replaced.


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