For many years, a mural on the western wall of Boise High’s gym depicted a red-skinned, loincloth-clad Native American holding a tomahawk in one hand and a knife in the other.
The Boise School District painted over the mural a few weeks ago to better “reflect Boise High’s culture of respect and dignity,” said district spokesman Dan Hollar.
Hollar cited a December 2015 Spokesman-Review article that quoted members of the Idaho Indian Affairs Council asking that schools be respectful in their depictions. That request, he said, led to the district’s conversation.
The school hadn’t used the logo for at least 25 years and it was out of date, said Boise High Principal Robb Thompson.
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“It was just antiquated. Obviously, you could take 100 different students and they would have 100 different opinions about the logo,” said Thompson.
But the school’s teams will remain the Braves.
“We want our mascot and our images to reflect our school and district guiding principals, respect, compassion, honesty, responsibility and courage. We think a brave fits that,” Thompson said. “It’s just in the way we depict it.”
The use of Native American images as mascots has inspired conversations at the school, he said.
“You’d be surprised at how often during the school year we’ll have students come to us and ask us to take certain things down that they find offensive. Sometimes they’re Native American and sometimes they’re not,” Thompson said.
The mascot has been associated with Boise High since as early as 1911, he said. Boise High opened its doors in 1902.
The use of Native American mascots has stirred controversy in professional sports, including for the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians. Mascots have also been criticized for other kinds of cultural insensitivity. One example, North Idaho’s Orofino High School Maniacs, usually assumed to come from the school’s proximity to a state psychiatric hospital. Locals there say the name dates to a boys basketball game in the 1920s where the players played like “maniacs.”
Boise High School’s “feathered B,” a monogram with Indian feathers, will replace the man in the loin cloth on the wall of the gym. Thompson hopes the new logo will be painted in time for the first day of school, Aug. 24.