Supporters of Raider name in Rutland rally to keep high school legacy

Published: Nov. 11, 2020 at 12:11 AM EST
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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) - Supporters of keeping the Rutland High School Raider name are pushing back against the school board’s decision. It voted to drop the nickname and arrowhead symbol, saying it invokes negative stereotypes of Native Americans. About 100 community members shared stories Tuesday night on why they are fighting to keep the Raider name.

“You can say what you want about the city of Rutland, but the high school is untouchable," said Rutland High School alumnus Jake Eaton.

“The community as a whole, whether it be students, community members, taxpayers, they’ve all been shut down. Their voices have not been heard," said Raider Strong organizer Stephanie Stoodley.

The Raider Strong group claims students trying to sign a petition to keep the Raider name were stopped because of COVID concerns, and supporters who tried to speak in favor of the name during a school board meeting in early October were not given time. It has been the small group of people who want the change speaking throughout the discussions.

“We would have parades through the entire city of Rutland and my senior year, in regalia, I was at the front of that parade," said Don Delpha, Class of 1990.

Delpha says he is of Cherokee descent, and to his knowledge, he is the last person to dress in regalia to represent the school.

“I’ve never associated it with something racist or demeaning for that matter. And that’s why I volunteered to do what I did then and that’s why I’m here now," he said.

Jack Austen, RHS Class of 1994, says he’s also of Cherokee descent. He believes removing the “Red” from the Raider name, replacing the logo, now eliminating it entirely, is stripping the school of more than just a mascot and name.

“If anything, this is a remembrance of my heritage," Austen said.

“Most people have forgotten the struggles we’ve gone through and this is all we have left," said Nicole Dean, RHS Class of 2015.

Dean says she is of Blackfoot and Cherokee descent.

“You get to a point where it almost becomes erasure, where you don’t listen to the marginalized voices, especially the indigenous people who do want to keep it," she said.

The group is also bringing attention to the elected school board members and telling the community to run for positions of importance for more accurate community representation.

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