When the drill team at Cedar High School in southwest Utah performed a dance with a Native American theme two years ago, a lot of people took notice — and not in a supportive way.
While tribal dance numbers and Native American themed costume days on campus weren’t out of the ordinary for a school whose mascot is the Redmen — plural for Redman — the performance stood out — and drew outside criticism — because the student body is 85 percent white.
Rich Nielsen, director of secondary education for Iron City School District, said that while many in the community love the Redmen mascot, it’s the students at Cedar High School who have to deal with the fallout. They’re the ones getting pushback on social media for supporting a nickname widely regarded as a Native American slur.
“It’s a tough issue,” Nielsen said. “You’ve got some proud parents and also you’ve got parents who are dealing with kids who are being harassed because of it.”
Rather than wait for another story to make headlines at the student’s expense, the Iron County School Board has decided to hold a formal review of the mascot next month. There will be two days of public comment and then a vote to decide whether or not to keep the Redmen in January.
“Our primary focus is what’s going to be best for our current students and our students 40-60 years down the road,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen said a 20th-century view of cultural sensitivity is no longer acceptable.
The local Cedar Paiute Tribe of Utah did not request a mascot change but tribe officials say they support the upcoming review process.