The Lewiston School Board has been asked to consider changes at Sacajawea Junior High School following a request to ban American Indian-based names and mascots.
Emily Wicks, a Lewiston resident, said the idea to rename the school and change the current mascot of the “Braves” surfaced after she learned the Nezperce School District on the Camas Prairie was reevaluating its “Indians” mascot. The conversation resurfaced after the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes submitted a letter to the Idaho State Board of Education last summer which asked schools in the state to stop using “offensive names and mascots.” The letter stated American Indian-based names and mascots perpetuated racism and stereotyping.
“This fall the Lewiston School District is going to see a major shift in our schools. The high school will be adding the ninth grade, the junior highs will become middle schools, and the elementaries will become K-5 including full-day kindergarten,” Wicks said during the public comment portion of Monday’s meeting. “I would like to propose that the school board take this opportunity to look at Sacajawea Junior High and the possibility of changing the name and the mascot.”
Wicks said the school could be renamed to Rapp Middle School — one of several options she posed — to honor former Lewiston Superintendent Joy Rapp, who retired in 2013 after 20 years as the leader of the district.
Mascot ideas posed by Wicks included the Raptors, the Steelhead or the Sturgeon.
“What a way to honor such dedication and drive. Jenifer (Junior High School) is named of course after principal and superintendent Joel Jenifer,” Wicks said. “This is a chance to honor two community members who have had such an impact on the Lewiston School District.”
Wicks said community input on a possible change would be a must, but stated “there are many ways in which we could move away from a harmful model to one of celebration.”
Diana Ames, another Lewiston resident, also said she believed a change is worth consideration.
“I think every group has a right to determine how their name should be used, how their identity should be used,” Ames said. “Just because we’ve done it one way for a long time ... doesn’t mean we should continue to do that.”
Superintendent Bob Donaldson said he assumed both Sacajawea and Jenifer would retain their current names when a transition to middle schools is made.
But he said any decisions on a name change would be up to the school board.
“I’m sensitive to what they’re bringing up and am not surprised by the current dialogue,” Donaldson said.
In 2014, both the Lewiston and Nezperce school districts discussed possible changes to their names and mascots after a request from the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee.
At that time, both districts moved away from using imagery depicting their mascots.
The Nezperce School District is garnering feedback from the community on the possible change to its mascot. The school board is expected to make a decision in March or April.
Boise and Teton high schools recently underwent similar measures to change their mascots from the Braves and Redskins, respectively.
In other school board news:
Brad Rice and Sheri Allen were elected board president and vice president, respectively.
The board approved the 2020-21 school year calendar and set the date of the graduation ceremony to Monday, May 24. A time and location will be decided later.
The board approved $110,000 of equipment purchases for the new high school’s construction program.
Tomtas may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 848-2294. Follow her on Twitter @jtomtas.