ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) — Another symbolic change took place this week at what will in a few months officially become Utah Tech University.
Crews at Dixie State University installed a new bigger-than-life statue of a bison on campus, right in the spot where a controversial statue depicting Confederate soldiers once stood, the Spectrum reported.
The newest addition to DSU’s bison statue family was donated by the Safari Club International Foundation. The artist, Douglas Van Howard, calls this piece “Prairie Spring.”
“The Bison became the symbol of the Trailblazer because it was the original trailblazer in the United States in Northern America, the original pioneer of Native American trails that were used for wagons and for just traveling were bison trails,” said Jordan Sharp, DSU’s VP of Marketing and Communication, repeating the thinking behind the school’s 2016 change to its current Trailblazers mascot.
The school has twice changed mascots since 2009, when it stopped calling its sports teams the Rebels in part of a years-long effort to move away from the Confederate imagery used earlier in its history.
In 2012, the school removed a statue that showed two Confederate soldiers, with one “Rebel” soldier on horseback reaching down to assist a fallen comrade during the Civil War. That piece had also been donated by a local artist, Jerry Anderson.
“When we rebranded, it was our hope to find a positive representative of trailblazing and the rebel spirit,” Sharp said. “And so that has sat empty because we haven’t had anything that we felt really was, you know, ready to be in the place of the Confederate soldier statue, so it’s sat empty. This is a great opportunity to provide an alternative, which still goes along with that trailblazing pioneer spirit.”
Dixie State is scheduled to officially become Utah Tech University on July 1, after years of debate over the “Dixie” name and its connotations. The state Legislature voted to approve the change in November, although it stipulated that the university’s St. George campus be called the “Dixie Campus.”
Students have begun to notice the eight-foot-tall bison with an appreciation for the new statue, with some taking pictures next to it.
“I think it’s well done. I really like it,” DSU student Lucas Asunsulo said on Thursday.
The statue is similar to other statues around town, but about 50% larger.