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Retire The Jamestown High School ‘Red Raider’

White-appropriated Native American imagery has no place in education or athletics. The Jamestown Justice Coalition agrees with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the American Psychological Association (APA), and fellow Jamestown residents of good conscience that there is no place for mascots, imagery, logos or nicknames employing Native American stereotypes in the Jamestown Public School system. We therefore respectfully request that the Jamestown Board of Education immediately retire the “Red Raiders” name and all associated imagery and create an inclusive process to generate a new nickname for JPS athletic teams.

Across the United States, Native American iconography has been appropriated by predominately white school districts in the form of tomahawks, war bonnets, tipis, and feathers. According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) there are 567 recognized Tribal entities across the U.S.–567 unique groups with different traditions, rich histories, and lived experiences. When we distill their cultural intricacies into a single image like a feather, or a tomahawk, we’ve objectified and marginalized all Native people. Jamestown is one of many school systems still using these racist symbols, but we must not be the last.

White people have for decades made the same, shallow arguments against changing these nicknames or logos, often that we are “honoring” Native people. We do not honor anyone by reducing them to a stereotype of a culture we can’t be bothered to understand. Jamestown Public Schools makes a mockery of Native American culture, traditions, history, and religion by portraying Native Americans through these degrading white stereotypes. Simply put, when we refer to Native people as “Red Raiders,” we are ridiculing them. We are actively contributing to an atmosphere of lowered expectations which teach all children Native Americans are an inferior people.

What does this nickname convey to students? We expect our schools to elevate the ideals of our community, in addition to educating all our children in core subjects. We include theatre and music programs, organized clubs, and athletics, all of which promote individual growth as children learn teamwork, self-respect, and personal responsibility. These are noble pursuits that enhance our communities in meaningful ways. Tainting them with racist nicknames and logos degrades the efforts of so many excellent educators and school leaders.

When we choose to eradicate the racist “Red Raider” imagery and logos is a decision left to the Jamestown Board of Education, but we are not only speaking to members of the school board. The entire Jamestown community, alumni, students, neighbors and supporters must play a part to create a better future for the children of Jamestown.

Changing a nickname will never erase Jamestown’s proud history of athletic accomplishments anymore than it will erase racism from our community. Alumni should still be just as proud of Jamestown and their teams’ accomplishments. Our community will still have work to do to address systemic racism beyond this single issue.

The Jamestown Board of Education has the power to change this with a single vote. For those who wish to keep the name despite student discomfort, who have heard the accusations of racism and ignored reality, who think being silent will make this discomfort go away, the times have found you.

Autumn Swanson is a Jamestown resident who wrote the above piece on behalf of the The Jamestown Justice Coalition JHS Mascot Petition Task Force.

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