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JHS To Change Mascot; Discussions Continue

Ben Drake, Jamestown High School athletic director and chairman of a committee investigating the Jamestown High School mascot, speaks during a Board of Education meeting Tueseday. P-J photo by John Whittaker

The Jamestown Public Schools District will stop out the use of any Native American imagery as part of district logos.

The decision was discussed during Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting by Ben Drake, Jamestown High School athletic director and chairman of a committee investigating the high school’s mascot. The district will stop using the “J” with feathers logo that has been featured on sports uniforms and other items in the district. The mascot committee will continue meeting and make a recommendation later.

Drake told board members on Tuesday that the “Red Raider” caricature didn’t appear in the district until the 1970s. Its use ended in 2014 when the district began using a block “J” logo with feathers.

“Over the last six years that has died a slow death,” Drake said of the caricature. “You don’t really see it. Most of our current student athletes don’t even really know that we used to be Red Raiders as the Indian, they just know it as the “J” with the feathers. And the committee has at this point recommended that we stop using the “J” with the feathers and we adopt a new logo. And that’s where we’re at with it. We’re continuing to plan on meeting about that during the summer and into the next school year to continue to make further recommendations.”

The issue surrounding the district’s mascot is not a new one: an April 6, 2001 story that ran in The Post-Journal noted that Richard Mills, former state education commissioner, had urged school board presidents and school districts to change their school’s mascot and nickname if it uses Native American symbols. Little came of that effort, but the district began to phase out a Native American character portrayal beginning in 2012. By 2015, all district athletic teams began using a capital ‘J’ with a feather at the direction of former superintendent Tim Mains.

The latest push to change the school’s mascot began in June 2020 with a petition by area residents who are part of the Jamestown Justice Coalition. District officials created a 20-member committee chaired by Drake that also included coaches, students, parents, board members and community members. Committee members toured the Seneca-Iroquois National Museum in Salamanca.

For the past six years, the district hasn’t had a mascot, Drake said, with the district’s sports teams only using the block “J” logo with the feathers.

“We had some really good discussions,” Drake said. “We did some more research. … We went through old yearbooks, old newspapers going back to the early 1900s. The sports teams in Jamestown from the early 1900s to the 1930s were just known as the ‘Red and Green.’ And then in the late (19)30s was the first time that we found a reference to the ‘Red Raiders.’ In the late 1940s is when the first mascot was seen in yearbooks, and the original Red Raider mascot was kind of what we’ve been referring to as a big cat/panther.”

The cat or panther was used sporadically for almost 20 years, Drake said, and then in the early 1970s is the first time the caricature Native American logo was seen on a football helmet. That was used until 2014, when the block “J” logo began being used.

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