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 Redmen: (outdated or offensive) an American Indian.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.