North Summit dedicates ‘Washakie Field’, culmination of discussions regarding the name and traditions of the ‘Braves’
Most of the cars filling the parking lot at North Summit High School on Wednesday night had come home messages on their windows, the handwritten words illuminated by the setting sun behind the ledges around Coalville. A fall thrill prompted a few latecomers as they made their way to the auditorium for the annual alumni meeting.
This year’s ceremony was going to be different. While it honors those who graduated decades ago, as always, it would also be the culmination of an effort to reposition the school’s Native American-inspired mascot and traditions in a wider cultural conversation that has prompted many schools, sports teams and other organizations in recent years to get rid of symbols considered offensive.
Members of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe were invited to the assembly as guests of honor, participating in a ceremony dedicating the high school athletic field to 19th-century Shoshone chief Washakie. They also heard a pledge from the North Summit School District that it would keep the Braves name for sports teams, but do so while incorporating lessons learned in a recent effort to review the school’s practices.
George Abeyta, a great-great-grandson of Chief Washakie, spoke to the crowd about the importance of honoring ancestors and traditions.
“In all walks of life, respect is something that is not always given, but almost always earned. You have earned my respect for your desire as a school to follow proper protocols and honor the indigenous peoples of the North Summit Valley, ”he said. “It would have been easy, or maybe not that easy, to give up the Braves name. … But with honor, and with courage, and with wisdom and respect, you have chosen to hold on to this name which you have proudly represented through the generations.
North Summit High School has fielded teams called the Braves for 100 years or more. School officials said the district has taken steps in recent years to end traditions seen as disrespectful to Native American culture, including a “tomahawk chop” at sports games and a mascot disguised as a Native American.
In recent months, officials have formed a committee to discuss the name of the team and the school mascot. The committee worked with a liaison officer from the Eastern Shoshone tribe, according to minutes a meeting of the Education Council. Committee chair Kathy Chappell said in an interview that the Brave symbolism is closely tied to the identity of the community.
“Our mascot is not just a name and an image. It’s very deep, “she said.” It’s part of who we are.… My dad, even in his 90s, always spoke fondly of being a North Summit Brave.
Native American symbols dot the walls of the high school, including a logo of a Native American with feathers and necklaces, representations of Native Americans painted in the center of class photos from the 1980s, and Native American figures on the walls of the auditorium.
Chappell said that on special occasions like the reunion, a school mascot would dress in a buckskin outfit and lead the football team on horseback across the field, sometimes throwing a flaming spear into the field. ground.
Chappel and other officials said the district will no longer allow the mascot to dress as a Native American. The horseback ride on the grounds ended when artificial turf was installed in recent years, she added.
The chop tomahawk has also come to an end, with cheerleaders and students no longer leading the vocals during matches, she said.
Chappel said the district has always tried to respect the culture that the Brave represents.
“We wanted to make sure we were properly aligned with Native American culture,” she said. “… We are so proud of our school and so proud to have a connection with Native American culture.”
Abeyta, dressed in Native American attire, spoke of Chief Washakie’s example as a warrior who led his people in a time of transition.
“He knew the coming of the white man was too big for his people to fight,” Abeyta said. “He knew he would become friends with the white man. And friends he has become.
After Abeyta’s speech, he and his sister’s granddaughter performed separate Native American dances accompanied by a Native American singer, to which the audience responded enthusiastically.
Superintendent Jerre Holmes said Washakie set an example that principals would try to emulate.
Voice at times broken, Holmes read a proclamation unanimously approved by the Board of Education formally announcing the new name of the high school athletic field.
“On behalf of the people of the North Summit School District, as well as their Shoshone friends from the East,” said Holmes, pausing to recover, “hereby state the sports field on the North Summit campus High School, where he rests now and where he could rest in the years to come, which will be named on this day, September 29, 2021, Washakie Field.
The audience gave a standing ovation as several officials signed the proclamation, including Abeyta; his mother, an eastern Shoshone elder; Holmes and the Chairman of the Board of Education.
The North Summit cheerleaders then took to the stage and officials announced a cheering rally ahead of Friday’s homecoming soccer game.
“We are the North Summit! Said the cheerleaders. “We are the Braves! “