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Will Rutland High School retire the Raiders?

(WCAX)
Published: Jul. 13, 2020 at 6:28 PM EDT
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Members of the Rutland community are creating a petition to change the Rutland High School mascot. Our Olivia Lyons tells you about the current mascot and why some people want it changed.

Rutland High School teams and students are known as the Rutland Raiders. Their current imagery is an arrowhead.

But many in the community want that to change and their effort is picking up steam.

"We're really not trying to strip that identity away from people and we're not trying to take that away from people," Amanda Gokee said.

Gokee is one Rutland High alumna creating a petition to prove there is community support to change the school's mascot.

"I am an Ojibwe woman and I remember feeling that there was nobody else like me in school, so I feel it is very harmful for students," she said.

Gokee says the current name is an appropriation of Native culture, erasing the contemporary existence of Native people not just in Vermont, but on a national level.

In addition to the mascot change, the group wants to see Abenaki history and culture taught in class. They also want recognition before school games because they say the school sits on Abenaki land.

"We're just trying to do that in a more inclusive way that recognizes the importance of Native communities," Gokee said.

She says part of the community with strong ties to the name "Raiders" is a portion of the athletic community.

"When you see a mascot from a certain school, especially Rutland, you know the school. So, it's just something you can use to recognize it and it's been there forever, so I don't see a point in changing it," said Abigail Hazlett of Danby.

This isn't the first time people have asked to change the mascot. Back in the 1980s, one student tried to make a change and again in the early 2000s. They went from the Rutland Red Raiders to the Rutland Raiders and the mascot changed from a man in regalia, to simply an arrowhead.

"We want to provide our students with the skills to engage in sometimes uncomfortable conversation," said Greg Schillinger, the principal of Rutland High School.

One of those students taking part in the conversation is Jenna Montgomery, a junior. She urges people to learn more before forming an opinion.

"Talk to somebody who is part of the movement and in favor of it. Because it is really easy to be like, 'Oh, I don't want this, this is different, it's been like this for so long' and not understand the true meaning as to why we would like to change it and add to the curriculum and all this," Montgomery said.

More than 200 alumni, teachers, students and parents are supporting the mascot change. The group pushing for it has a meeting later this week with the school superintendent.

The group is seeking the community's input for the new mascot. On the table-- Rutland Rhinos, Red Maples and Rat Snakes.