Country Day Indians: Tradition or Tasteless?

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Taylor Boggs

By Kathryn Burress ’16, Contributor
​In 1972, Stanford University changed their mascot from the Indians to the Cardinals. Eastern Michigan University retired their Huron mascot for the Eastern Michigan Eagles in 1991. The Miami University Redsk*ns became the Miami University Redhawks in 1996. We have all heard about the pressure the Washington Redsk*ns have received to change their mascot to something less offensive. There is no denying that in the 21st Century, having a sports mascot that alludes to Native American culture is considered offensive by many, if not the majority of the population. Yet Cincinnati Country Day still proudly displays the Indian mascot, which raises the question, is it time for change?
​I turned to my fellow seniors, who have experienced almost four years of Country Day spirit, to see if they think our mascot is an unchangeable icon, or if they find it offensive.

Katie Jamison thinks that “there are definitely more offensive ones out there…[such as the Redsk*ns, which is considered to be a derogatory term for Native Americans], we are located in Indian Hill.” Caroline Retzios points to the Michigan State Spartans, and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, saying that Indians are not the only culture used as a mascot. There is no doubt that Country Day chose its mascot to pay tribute to the historical roots of our beautiful 62-acre campus, situated in Indian Hill. However, a closer examination at the history of the land may raise questions as to if the name is truly honorable.

​Long before it was called Indian Hill, the bountiful area was inhabited by the Shawnee, Miami, and Delaware Tribes. In 1794, the Shawnees were defeated by General Anthony Wayne and forced to surrender most of their Ohio land. Tecumseh rallied his fellow Shawnees in 1811, but failed to reclaim the lands ceded. By 1833, the U.S. Government had forced the Shawnees to give up all Ohio land, including the land that makes up Indian Hill today. Although this seizure of land occurred almost two centuries ago, some may argue that it is distasteful to name the land after the very people it was taken from. The Country Day Indians may be named after Indian Hill, but Indian Hill is named after a race of people forced to leave their land because colonists wanted to farm on it.
​In the stands at sporting events, what Cincinnati Country Day lacks in numbers we make up for in spirit. Students wear the Indian Logo with pride, and I have seen headdresses all four years of high school on Blue and White days during spirit week. As Emma Rust says, “we aren’t saying anything negative about the Native Americans.” Haven Watson agrees that it “only becomes a problem when we make it one.” Our well-intended spirit may be offensive to the Native Americans though. The Indian headdress, donned by many teens, is a symbol of bravery in Native American tribes, meant to be worn only by the few who earned the honor. Each time they did something considered brave or honorable, Native American warriors were awarded a feather in ceremony. Once they received enough feathers, they would be bound into a headdress, worn as a symbol of the brave acts performed. The appropriation of the headdress discredits the Native American warriors for the bravery they had to show in order to be able to wear their headdresses.
​Recognizing the negative aspects of our school mascot does not mean we do not have positive feelings towards our school. Ian Hayes makes sure that his school spirit is not overlooked, “I love his school and our sports teams…but I think our mascot is a little outdated, perhaps culturally insensitive.” Ian recognizes that we mean to celebrate the bravery of Native Americans, but that it does not seem right to destroy a culture and then use their name.
​So, what should Cincinnati Country Day do? The first school in the nation to provide every student with a laptop computer, Country Day is known to be progressive. Another important question, what would our new mascot be? We could still pay tribute to the land our school is on by naming ourselves after the animals in Indian Hill; the Country Day Coyotes has nice alliteration. We could also become the Country Day Bucks, after the plethora of deer in the woods and fields surrounding us. There are numerous options that could pay tribute to our history, without using an obliterated culture’s face.
​It is up to the student body to push for a change. Do not stop cheering for Blue and White, but think about what you are representing if you plan on wearing a headdress to a sporting event, and let us know in the poll what you think about our mascot.


Citations:

http://aistm.org/fr.chronology.htm

http://www.ci.indian-hill.oh.us/history/history.htm

http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Shawnee_Indians?rec=631

http://www.indians.org/articles/indian-headdress.html

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