Bedford Road Redmen’s mascot needs updating

NATALIE DAVIS

Redman Logo

Bedford Road Collegiate Institute is one of Saskatoon’s oldest high schools, second only to Nutana Collegiate Institute. With that age comes a history, and with all that time passed comes a necessity for change.

Bedford opened its doors on Feb. 12, 1923. Their mascot, Big Red of the Redmen, is a reflection of less tolerant times and is something that must be updated for the present day. Shockingly, there are many people who still don’t understand the reasons why it must be revamped.

Popular arguments for the mascot to remain  include charming sentiments like: Aboriginal Peoples are being oversensitive and that Big Red is a symbol to be proud of.

I wonder if any of the people behind those misinformed phrases have looked up the word Redmen in the dictionary.

Not to worry, I’ve done it for you. Redmen: (outdated or offensive) an American Indian. It looks to me like the term is not a source of First Nations pride at all.

Still not convinced? This next little gem is incredibly offensive; my apologies and you’ve been warned.

Taken from a post on the controversial Facebook page “Bedford Road Redmen, It’s Time for Change,” this is an excerpt from the Sept. 24, 1863 issue of The Daily Republican, a newspaper in Winona, Minnesota.

The newspaper declared that “the state reward for Redskins has been increased to $200 for every Redskin sent to purgatory. This sum is more than the dead bodies of all the Indians east of the red river are worth.” The spelling may be different, but the idea is the same as the mascot for one of our city’s high schools. This is not appropriate.

A high school should be a centre of respect, where all sorts of ethnicities feel safe, welcome and able to learn in a comfortable environment — not a place that employs an offensively stereotyped mascot and provides fuel for hatred toward students, staff and members of the community that desire to change the mascot.

The only ethnic or racial stereotypes being used for team mascots in North America are those depicting Aboriginal Peoples. Many teams have been given names such as the Chiefs, Indians, Savages, Eskimos and Redskins. How many teams can you think of that are named after Yellowmen, Tar Babies or  derogatory names for any other ethnic group?

Why is the Redmen mascot even considered appropriate at all? The Facebook page “Bedford Road Redmen, It’s Time for a Change” has more than 700 likes; clearly there are a lot of people who find the mascot offensive. And if it is offensive to anyone, the voices of the offended should be heard above those who think there is nothing wrong with it currently. It blows my mind that this is even a debate.

The Department of Educational Foundations, College of Education at the University of Saskatchewan decreed on Nov. 15, 2013 that it “doesn’t support the use of indigenous people depicted as school mascots in logos, slogans or team names in K-12, post-secondary and community educational institutes.” Furthermore they state, “As a department focused on pedagogy, research and community engagement relating to Indigenous peoples, social and ecological justice, we unanimously support and recommend the immediate retirement of such caricatures.”

Jared Brown, a First Nations student at the U of S and former U of S Students’ Union president, feels passionately that the stigma associated with having such a blatant stereotype as a school mascot is damaging not only to aboriginal students but also to how those of other ethnicities view Aboriginal Peoples, consciously and unconsciously.

“Cultural appropriation is an issue that holds a great deal of relevance in Native communities, and it is about time that we begin to take proactive steps to address it  — such as the campaign to remove the Bedford Road ‘Redmen’ mascot and symbol and the successful human rights complaint made by a member of A Tribe Called Red in Ottawa,” Brown said.

The human rights complaint he was referring to was put in place by First Nations activist Ian Campeau, also known as DJ NDN. Campeau successfully lobbied to change the name of the Nepean Redskins Football Club.

Let’s keep our society as free of racism and oppression as humanly possible.

Those interested in promoting change for Bedford Road’s Redmen can join the Facebook group “Bedford Road Redmen: It’s Time for a Change” to show their support.


Photo: Supplied

  • Disgruntled

    Let me begin by saying that I am not a First Nations individual or from aboriginal descent. Therefore my opinion of whether Redskins is a culturally offensive name or not, should carry very little weight as should opinion pieces, and views either for or against the name by people that are not a member of First Nations that this directly impacts.

    However I do have an opinion and I think it is getting absolutely ridiculous why people who are white or other ethnicities are the ones making the major fuss over an issue that is not about them. In this issue, and a similar one with the Washington Redskins it is people that have no affiliation to the said group or school but yet are trying to say that the name is being racist and discriminatory.

    Specifically the Bedford Road Redmen example the author is way off base with her accusations regarding the Redmen name and mascot. First off Bedford is located on Saskatoon’s west side and has a large population of students that are First Nations, these students take pride in their heritage and culture and take pride in their school name. You may say well what does this guy know about whether the students enjoy the name or not? That is a fair rebuttal but I know personally that 3 years ago the issue of the Redmen name came up as being potentially controversial. A group of coaches/teachers at the school brought the issue up to senior management at FSIN (Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations) to see if it was inflammatory or derogatory. Instead what they heard was the opposite that the people and many First Nations love the name and that they and the community take a lot of pride in it. Finally I’ll finish off by saying I’ve done a lot of coaching with inner city kids in football and the First Nations kids I coach look forward to playing for the Bedford Redmen because it represents their culture and is tied in positively to a highschool and athletics which they can’t wait to take part in.

    If this was a name that First Nations in Saskatchewan thought was racist then organizations such as FSIN, and others in Saskatchewan would have raised this issue, but they haven’t. Instead it’s this author and people like her who probably has never even been in Bedford Road school decides to spout off on an issue they have no business even commenting on. Maybe instead of preaching from your soapbox, try volunteering or working in educational institutes such as Bedford or with organizations that are actively involved with First Nations group and use that to stem off racism, not a damn opinion piece.

    • steph

      I completely agree! I have friends that played sports for Bedford Road that are First Nations and they took pride in the name. I was in high school when the issue with the name came up and the teachers started to talk about changing it, and those friends of mine disagreed and said they’d rather keep the name. Instead of Caucasians with authority assuming that it’s offensive to First Nations people, we should be consulting the First Nations students and their families on their ideas and if it is offensive to them or not.

  • angry foodie

    This one is tough.

    The term “red” man or “redskin” was labelled outdated and offensive, ironically, by the politically correct white people who actually write the dictionaries.

    So when someone cites dictionaries, I generally get a bit of a laugh.

    But culturally, it does not really work amongst most of the people of the Plains. There are some fantastic essays out there discussing how the terms “red” and “white” were used in eastern American Indian cultures. Not surprisingly, they involved war.

    Alas, facts elude reason again. I should think that Canadian FN people would have bigger problems than the name of a school team. I mean, FN girls in Saskatchewan and Manitoba are more likely to be trafficked as child sex workers than any other group of Canadians. Much of this is perpetrated by gangs and family members. Yet the FSIN and pretty much all FN people are silent on this epidemic.

    Then there is the gap between rich and poor amongst FN people, but the one-percenters running the FSIN wouldn’t want to do anything about that!