SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – After four months of public input and discussion, Principal Aaron Hogge announced Monday that Bountiful High would be changing its mascot, the Braves, after 69 years.
The controversy came into question in July when two alumnae, Mallory Rogers and Mykala Rogers, started a petition to get the mascot changed. Those who supported the petition said the mascot perpetuated offensive Native American stereotypes.
“Our first goal is to start the conversation. Our nation is having a reckoning with our relationship with race right now. We’re seeing these discussions happen with professional teams on the national level,” explained Mallory Rogers in an interview with ABC4 News in July.
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Soon after, a counter-petition was started by Brett Baker, another Bountiful High alumnus. Those who supported keeping the mascot said it paid tribute to Indigenous communities.
“I think of Braves as a group of people who are Brave. I don’t see how that’s negative and I can understand the argument down in Cedar City with Redmen and with the Redskins and how those depictions could be seen as offensive,” said Baker in the July interview.
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Administrators formed a consultation committee to identify and discuss concerns that have been presented regarding the school’s mascot. The community also listened to the various perspectives of stakeholders on the issue and discussed potential solutions moving forward.
During this process, officials sought input from representatives of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation, current Bountiful High School students, faculty, staff, and parents.
In an online video posted to YouTube Monday, Principal Hogge announced the school’s decision.
“We want to rally around a mascot that everyone feels comfortable with, that’s going to be our goal. Our goal now is to get input from our incoming students. They will have a chance to give submissions. We’ll take those, do some voting, whittle those down to a smaller number, and make the final decision,” Principal Hogge told ABC4’s Jason Nguyen.
Hogge continued, “Our goal is to do that in the next two months. But we’ll finish this school year as the Bountiful Braves. We’ll have a retiring of the mascot, probably something out in the football field. The summer will be very busy getting everything ready to go. Then we’ll start the new school year with the new mascot.”
Shortly after, James Singer, Co-Founder of the Utah League of Native American Voters and Megan Singer, Director of the Native American Initiative at Utah Valley University joined ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen on the CW30 News at 7 p.m. to talk about why they commended the Principal’s decision, which happens to fall on the last day of Native American Heritage Month.
“What’s really important to understand about the nature of racism in our country is that it doesn’t have to be an individual doing it to another individual. It doesn’t have to be intentional. What underlies all this is power. Who’s controlling it and who’s controlling the narrative?” said James Singer.
He added, “Natives didn’t get to say what they felt about this. This was bestowed upon them saying, ‘This is honoring you.’ But it’s not an honor. I think of the many ways we are honored. Think of the Navajo Code Talkers and World War II or Jim Thorpe, the Olympian was awarded with two gold medals. I can’t think of a moment of honor where they award us with a mascot.”
“When we’re talking about Native people, we haven’t had control over how we’re viewed. In this case, we’re viewed as a joke, as a mascot for people to rally behind, rather than people who are still alive today,” said Meg Singer.
She went on to say, “I think one of the things that is hard for people to realize is that stereotypes, no matter if they put people in a positive or negative light, are inherently racist and are actually very harmful. Even though we would like to think of the Braves as being brave, it stems from Native Americans being dehumanized in a way that they don’t have actual control over they’re viewed.”
ABC4 News reached out to several people who wanted to keep the mascot to join the discussion, but they declined or did not respond to our inquiries.
To watch the full IN FOCUS discussion with James Singer and Megan Singer, click on the video at the top of the article.
Catch IN FOCUS discussions with ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen weeknights on the CW30 News at 7 p.m.