A high school in Indiana became the latest school to end its use of a “Redskins” nickname last week, after the Goshen Community Schools board voted 5-2 to choose a new mascot.
The decision to change the name was not without controversy: As in other school districts where the issue has come up, many students and alumni wanted to keep the nickname Goshen High School has used for nearly 90 years. But critics of the name won out in the end, and the school will have a new mascot at the start of 2016.
"There comes a time when society changes and symbols need to also change," school board president Cathie Cripe said in a statement last week.
Activists have challenged the use of Native American mascots at the high school and collegiate levels for decades. While 62 high schools across the country still used the "Redskins" name as of 2013, at least 28 others dropped the mascot in the 25 years before that, according to a Capital News Service analysis.
The movement has accelerated in recent years as national campaigns have targeted the "Redskins" mascot of Washington, D.C.'s professional football team, which still defends the name against charges that it is offensive to Native Americans. Goshen is the latest in a trend that could continue to put pressure on the NFL and the team -- it is at least the eighth school in the U.S. and Canada to drop a “Redskins” or "Redmen" nickname since 2013, while multiple states have pushed to ban the name or to outlaw Native American mascots altogether.
Aside from Goshen, here are seven other schools that have made similar decisions in the last two years:
Cooperstown Central High School, Cooperstown, New York
"These wonderful kids have done such an inclusive, respectful and thoughtful thing."
In many ways, Cooperstown helped spark a new drive against “Redskins” mascots when a student-led movement pushed the school to change its nickname in 2013. That decision convinced the Oneida Indian Nation of New York to help start the "Change The Mascot" campaign against Washington’s team.
"They're showing much more thoughtful and respectful initiatives than many of these wealthy major-league team owners,” Ray Halbritter, the Oneida representative who has emerged as a prominent critic of the Washington team, told USA Today. "These wonderful kids have done such an inclusive, respectful and thoughtful thing."
Port Townsend High School, Port Townsend, Washington
"Now we're Redhawks, and we're liking it."
School board officials at Washington state's Port Townsend High School voted unanimously to retire the school’s “Redskins” nickname in 2013, a year after the state board of education recommended the elimination of such mascots. The name had been “divisive” for three decades, the district’s superintendent said at the time. But a year after the controversial change, students seemed to have moved on.
"Now we're Redhawks, and we're liking it,” a Port Townsend football player said before the school began its first season with a new name.
Lamar High School, Houston, Texas
"Traditions are important. But respect for cultural difference and sensitivities matters more."
The Houston Independent School District banned schools from using “culturally insensitive” mascots in 2014. The decision applied to four schools, including Lamar High, which used “Redskins.” Lamar's sports teams are now known as the Texans.
"The time has come for the Houston Independent School District -- the most vibrantly diverse school district in the nation -- to acknowledge that some decisions made generations ago need to be reconsidered," HISD superintendent Terry Grier wrote in an editorial about the policy. "Traditions are important. But respect for cultural difference and sensitivities matters more."
Bedford Road Collegiate School, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
"Our name and logo being changed, it's not going to change who we are."
Officials at this Saskatchewan school voted to stop using the “Red Men” mascot in March 2014.
“Our name and logo being changed, it’s not going to change who we are, we’re just going to continue to grow and become even more stronger and carry a lot more spirit within the school,” a Bedford Road student said of the decision.
Western Canada High School, Calgary, Alberta
"It's high time for us to move forward and transition to a new name."
Western Canada High dropped its "Redmen" nickname in March 2014 after local indigenous elders asked the school to adopt a new mascot.
“We have members of our community that feel that we need to make some changes so that they feel also included,” the school's principal said.
"There's been enough discussion to date that we feel that it's high time for us to move forward and transition to a new name at Western Canada," a spokesman for the Calgary Board of Education said of the change.
Capitol Hill High School, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
"There was no real reason not to do the right thing."
The school in Oklahoma City decided to choose a new mascot in December 2014 after using “Redskins” for 88 years.
“There was no real reason not to do the right thing,” the local superintendent said.
Students protested the decision, but Capitol Hill saw less controversy over the change than some other schools did, local officials said.
“I was actually surprised about how well-received it was. I thought that I would have to do more education on our end to let them learn about the word,” Star Yellowfish, the local administrator for American Indian student services, said at the time. “But they get it. They got it, and they care about our kids.”
Lancaster Central High School, Lancaster, New York
"The name of a school mascot should not be offensive to anyone."
Lancaster Central High School, in upstate New York, decided to change its “Redskins” nickname in March of this year after multiple schools canceled lacrosse matches against Lancaster to protest its mascot. Though students pushed back against the change, the school board offered a simple reason for it: “The name of a school mascot should not be offensive to anyone,” a board member said before the final vote.
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Even as these schools have changed their mascots, others, like Wellpinit High in Washington state, have reaffirmed their support for the name. But these eight could soon have more company. Goshen's decision has led to similar discussions around the "Redskins" mascot at North Side High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In June, the California state assembly approved legislation that would ban schools from using “Redskins” as a nickname. The state senate is expected to vote on the bill in August. If it passes and Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signs it, as he is expected to do, four schools in the state would have to choose new names.
And in Oregon, as many as 14 schools may be forced to change their mascots after state officials in May upheld a ban on Native American nicknames first passed in 2012. (None of the 14, however, use "Redskins.")
Washington's NFL team, meanwhile, is currently appealing a judge's decision that invalidated six of its federal trademark protections on the grounds that the name was "disparaging."
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