SDHSAA Indian mascot discussion brings media attention to Woonsocket School

The question of the ethical use of Woonsocket’s mascot, the “Redmen,” was raised by area and statewide media, following a discussion at last Wednesday’s South Dakota High School Activities Association meeting.
At the meeting, Native American at-large SDHSAA Board member Roger Bordeaux of the Tiospa Zina Tribal School gave a presentation detailing the negative impact that Indian mascots can have on Native American students. He concluded that “it is very clear that Indian mascots, and any representation of stereotypical Indian imagery … cause harm to American Indian youth.”
The SDHSAA Board of Directors discussed the issue and decided to vote at their January meeting on the first reading of a resolution asking member schools to consider not using stereotypical Indian imagery and Indian mascots.
Board members emphasized throughout their discussion that the resolution would be in no way binding on school districts, but is meant to start a discussion about the use of Native American school mascots.
Sixteen schools in South Dakota have mascot names that may be considered offensive according to the SDHSAA resolution, including Woonsocket’s Redmen.
A press release by the SDHSAA regarding this discussion sparked interest from the Daily Republic, and was then picked up by other media outlets.
Supt. Rod Weber briefly addressed the Woonsocket School Board at their regular meeting Monday night, handing out copies of the information from the SDHSAA Board meeting. He said he plans to attend their next meeting on Jan. 5, at which time the Activities Association Board will be voting on the resolution.
Community member Connie Swenson was present at the start of the meeting to state her feelings on the matter. “I feel bad that [they] feel that way about this,” she began. “To me, it’s a sign of bravery.… we are proud of it. It shouldn’t be a negative, it should be a positive thing.”
Woonsocket uses the mascot “Redmen” for their cross country team, which is the only sport not co-oped with area schools. All other activities are part of the Blackhawk co-op, which started with Wessington Springs for football in 2008, and has continued on today to include Sanborn Central. Woonsocket and Sanborn Central are co-oped as the Blackhawks for all other sports and activities such as band and FFA.
Woonsocket School still considers their mascot as a single entity to be the “Redmen,” though the school moved away from the Indian imagery and began using a red “W” in its place around 15 years ago.

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