BOUNTIFUL — The mascot name is going.
Bountiful High School principal Aaron Hogge announced Monday the school will change its “Braves” moniker following a petition from some alumni, feedback from Native American groups, and months of meetings that have taken place over the name over the past few months.
The school has held that moniker since it opened in 1951. Hogge said the school will make the change after the 2020-2021 school year ends.
“To all those who have graduated Bountiful High School as Braves, that tradition and pride will continue. The class of 2021 will graduate as Braves,” he said in a short video announcing the decision which was posted on YouTube Monday afternoon.
“We will begin the process within our school community of selecting a culturally-sensitive mascot that will unite all stakeholders and continue the tradition of unity, respect, honor, courage, bravery and excellence in the classroom, and on the stage, court or field,” he added.
School officials began an inquiry into the mascot name earlier this year following a petition launched in July from a pair of alumni: Mallory Rogers and Mykala Rogers. The petition urged the school to change the mascot name, which they said was offensive to Native Americans. It was inspired by the conversations of systemic racism and cultural appropriation propelled in the weeks after the death of George Floyd.
Mallory Rogers told KSL.com Monday evening that she was “thrilled” and “grateful” that the school administration chose to listen to current and former students, community members and, especially, Native American-led groups. Rogers said she was also surprised how quickly her petition resulted in a decision from school officials.
“Some of the Native American activists that I’ve been working with — who have worked on this issue before in other areas — were shocked with how fast things were going, which I think shows that the community was listening and just aware,” she said. “I was pleased with how fast it went. When I started it, I didn’t think it would be this fast.”
Native American-led groups like the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Utah, Peace Advocates for Native Dialogue & Organizing Support, Salt Lake City Air Protectors, and the League of Native American Voters were among the organizations that backed the petition shortly after it went online.
James Singer, the co-founder of the League of Native American Voters, told KSL.com in July that he felt Native American mascot names “dehumanizes and desensitizes” Native Americans.
However, not everyone was on board with changing the school’s mascot name after it had been in use for nearly 70 years. An alumnus of the school posted a counterpetition online aimed to keep the Braves moniker in response to the call to remove it. It landed the support of a Native American group that supports Native American mascot names, arguing removing names leads to removing Native Americans from any national discourse.
The two petitions ended up with about 6,000 signatures. Interestingly enough, both were also posted online days before the Washington Redskins announced they would drop their controversial mascot name after 87 years. The NFL organization has played this season as the Washington Football Team.
The online discussion from the petitions ultimately led to a formal review of the mascot name, which Hogge and other school administrators began in August.
A committee was formed to weigh both arguments. It sought feedback not just from Bountiful High staff and students, but also from community members and representatives from the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation. After compiling the input from the listening sessions, Hogge said he believed the mascot name had a proud legacy, but that it was necessary for the school to change its mascot name.
“Over the years, the theme of ‘Braves’ and the courage, strength and bravery that is rich in the Native American culture represented our school community. … At times, depictions of Native Americans have crossed the line of cultural respect,” Hogge said in the video.
“Attempts have been made over the years to become more culturally sensitive,” the principal added. “I believe leaders and students in the past have had the best of intentions to create unity, respect, honor, courage and bravery when they use the Braves mascot.”
Rogers isn’t done with her efforts to promote change in regard to Native American mascots in Utah. She was one of the individuals who spoke at a press conference last week in favor of a nonbinding resolution that would urge public schools to retire Native American-themed mascots, acknowledge the harm they have caused, and encourage more Native American culture and history education.
The Native American Mascots and Equality in Public Schools, or NAMES, resolution — sponsored by Rep. Elizabeth Weight, D-West Valley City — is expected to be introduced during the Utah Legislature 2021 general session.
While she is not Native American herself, Rogers said she was originally nervous to speak up against the Braves mascot. After working alongside Native American groups over the past few months, she’s glad she followed through with the petition. She referenced a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr. as she pointed out that it is important for people to speak up for what is right. It’s something that Rogers hopes others will do when cast in similar positions.
“If you see a wrong; if you see an injustice, it’s your place to speak up and to say ‘hey, this doesn’t seem right to me, this doesn’t seem OK. Let’s talk about it and see if it needs to change,'” she said. “Anyone can stand up for what’s right.”
As for what the new Bountiful High mascot should be, Rogers isn’t overly concerned with what her alma mater selects.
“They’re thinking about being culturally senstive, so, me personally, I’m not concerned about it,” she said. “I think it will be fun for the student body to come together and pick a new mascot. I’m sure they’ll be some creative, fun ideas that everyone can get behind.”