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New Utah state resolution calls for name changes of Native American mascots

Posted at 8:57 PM, Nov 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-24 22:57:39-05

BOUNTIFUL, Utah — On the steps in front of the entrance to Bountiful High School, around 15 people gathered for a press conference Tuesday.

Utah Rep. Elizabeth Weight (D-West Valley City) introduced the Native American Mascots and Equality in Public Schools Resolution or "N.A.M.E.S." Resolution.

The concurrent resolution aims to encourage schools with Native American mascots deemed offensive to retire them.

“This resolution basically calls on them to take the opportunity to consider: 'Is this how we really really want to be identified?'” Weight said.

It was no secret why the press conference was being held at Bountiful High School as its mascot, the “Braves,” has controversial in recent months.

READ: School administration holds preliminary discussion on Bountiful mascot

But it wasn’t the only reason that Bountiful High School was picked for the announcement.

“I’ve always introduced myself as a proud graduate of Bountiful High,” Weight said. “I never could identify as the mascot in this school… It was always embarrassing… Uncomfortable… And now has become embarrassing for me.”

Students from the school both past and present also spoke out during the announcement of the future legislation.

"My yearbooks are littered with depictions of redface and caricatures of native people,” 2013 graduate Mallory Rogers said.

This was a statement echoed by senior Paige Mayfield, who said the mascot is “an inaccurate caricature of a living, breathing culture.”

READ: Native American organizations urge changing Bountiful High mascot; Mayor apologizes for comments

Jenna Francis, another senior, talked about how welcoming she feels at the school but that the mascot was the one sour spot.

“Bountiful High is so much better and stronger than what we are being represented with right now,” she said.

The resolution itself would not have the force of law but would be a strong statement from Capitol Hill.

Concurrent resolutions would have to be passed by both houses in the state and also signed by the governor. Weight said because of the symbolism, it could be “even more powerful.”

Bountiful High School has been the center of this mascot debate for some time, and administrators are considering a change.

“Because the decision of school mascots and school colors are made at the school level, the decision to keep the mascot or choose a new one — in this instance — is being made by Bountiful High School Principal Aaron Hogge,” the Davis School District said Tuesday.

The district then identified the options being considered and what goes into changing the name.

The district also announced Tuesday that Hogge will announce his decision Monday "after months of study and receiving feedback."

The announcement will be made on the school's YouTube channel at 4 p.m., and FOX 13 will have coverage on the change.

Utah has been no stranger to other mascot controversies over the years.

In 1972, the University of Utah’s mascot was the “Redskins” but was changed through discussions with the Ute tribe who gave their blessing for the Ute mascot to be adopted by the school.

Since then, the university has been seen by many in the state of Utah within the Native American community as an example of how to communicate with a local tribe in order to promote an inclusive image.

More recently, Cedar City High School was in the news over their Redmen mascot.

READ: Utah school board scraps controversial “Redmen” high school mascot

The Mascot was changed in 2018 to the “Reds” but has faced a lot of backlash from the community, many of whom did not agree with the change.

“I am sick and tired of seeing racism as something fun,” James Singer with Utah League of Native American Voters passionately said during Tuesday’s announcement. “No student's life has been tragically or detrimentally altered when Native American mascots are retired.”

Singer and other Native Americans have thrown their support behind the N.A.M.E.S. resolution as a way to continue to make strides towards a more inclusive environment for Native Americans

“This resolution is a challenge to understand our shared history better," Singer said.

The exact language of the resolution has not been finalized yet but will go before the 2021 legislative session come January.