Boise School District Moves to Change Embattled Boise High Mascot 

The Boise High Braves mascot has been a source of tension in the debate over how images of Native people are used. - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • The Boise High Braves mascot has been a source of tension in the debate over how images of Native people are used.

Boise High School is taking steps to change its “Boise Braves” Native American-themed mascot to “Boise Brave,” the school district announced Monday.

The district’s board of trustees is scheduled to vote on the change next week.

“...This is the final step in a multi-year process to move Boise High’s mascot away from a caricature of Native American culture to one that more faithfully represents the school’s vision and core values,” Boise High Principal Robb Thompson said in Monday’s press release.

The move to replace the mascot, as first reported by the Idaho Statesman, comes after the district consulted with Boise High staff, parent and student leaders, patrons, alumni and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, including a visit to the Fort Hall Reservation on Thursday.

Boise’s move comes weeks after Teton School District trustees decided to retire the 90-year-old Redskins mascot name at Teton High School, also at the urging of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes.

The change has been a long time in the works, Boise School District spokesman Dan Hollar said.

The district recently decided to remove all imagery of indigenous people from the schools uniforms and campus. Hollar said while that change will take a couple of years to fully execute, this is another effort to make sure all students feel welcome and represented at Boise High.

“If someone is not feeling welcome, if someone is not feeling valued, we need to find out why,” Hollar said.

While Hollar said the mascot is an attempt to quell the negative effects of the Braves mascot, others took issue with the change.

Tai Simpson, a member of the Nez Perce tribe and indigenous activist, said that while she believes Boise High needs to change its mascot, dropping a letter from it doesn’t do the trick.

“Personally, I’m in the camp of the people who think it’s not enough of a change,” she said.

Simpson said all imagery of indigenous people as a mascot or name is either racist or cultural appropriation, and should not be used.

“Unless of course it is the tribe or the nation presenting it,” she said.

To fully distance itself from the mascot, the school should simply pick a new mascot, Simpson said.

“I can’t think of any school ever that’s used an adjective as a mascot,” she said.

Hollar said the change to Brave, a value, is a callback to the school’s beginning. The entrance to the school displays four Latin words: wisdom, justice, temperance and courage.

The latter, courage, is what Hollar said the new mascot would refer to. The district’s announcement said Brave stands for balance, resilience, acceptance, valor and engagement.

“The idea behind Brave is a character trait, not a caricature,” Hollar said.

Others objecting to the change are lobbying for the school not to change the mascot without more public involvement.

Former state legislator and Boise High graduate Branden Durst started a campaign titled “Save the Boise Braves.” The campaign has a Facebook page and a petition, signed by almost 70 people, to push the school district to put off the change.

“If nothing else, the process should be open and transparent,” Durst said.

The problem is twofold, he said. The first issue is the transparency, he said. He noted that he only heard about the potential change through a news report over the weekend.

The second issue is whether the mascot even needs to change.

“Is it necessary? And I can understand a concern that some might have when your mascot is derogatory,” he said. But “Braves,” he said, is not derogatory.

Teton High School’s mascot change was met with resistance and a grievance petition at a recent meeting, the Teton Valley News reported.

Boise and Teton Valley mascots are not the only mascots that have come under scrutiny in recent months. Calls to retire the Salmon High School mascot the Savage can be found as far back as the late 1990s and early 2000s.

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