High school drops ‘Redskins’ name after 87 years

While the Washington Redskins are fighting to keep their controversial team name, it was presumed that high schools would begin disassociating themselves from the likeness.

That’s exactly what happened in Washington state.

The Peninsula Daily News reported Monday that the Port Townsend School Board unanimously decided to ditch the “Redskins” name for Port Townsend High School after 87 years of existence.

“No one believes the Redskins name and symbol are intentionally hurtful or disrespectful toward Native Americans,” said School Board member Ann Burkhart, who made the motion. “But I fail to see how a symbol, even a revered symbol, that is generally acknowledged to be divisive can be helpful in preparing students for success in the increasingly connected and collaborative 21st Century.”

The campaign to remove the name started in 2012, when local resident Andrew Sheldon wrote the School Board, saying he’s “offended, embarrassed and ashamed by our school mascot.”

After an eight-member “study group” examined the impact of the name, it was decided it “should be retired with honor and dignity. . . We need to accept that the culture has gone beyond us and that it is time to change.”

Sheldon’s efforts came to a head on Monday, as 275 people gathered in the high school’s auditorium, many split into factions for or against the move.

The School Board approved the motion, and issued the following statement:

“Recognizing that the ‘Redskins’ name and logo has a long, cherished history with Port Townsend High School and its alumni, the School Board also recognizes that it is a divisive issue for the school, community and region.”

Some Port Townsend residents, including Native American and PTHS graduate Terri McQuillen, don’t believe the change was necessary.

“I didn’t [take offense to the name], because I was raised to understand my responsibility is to take my name and make it proud,” McQuillen said.

It’s always a little disheartening to see something as longstanding as this affected by political semantics. But Port Townsend High School isn’t the first to change its name, and it surely won’t be the last, either.

(Photo credit: Patrick J. Sullivan/ptleader.com)

Zack Kelberman
An award-winning sportswriter, reporter and blogger, Zack currently serves as the Miami Dolphins live correspondent and Team Stream curator for Bleacher Report. He's also a freelance NFL writer and the founder/editor-in-chief of Helmet2Helmet. His work has appeared on media outlets such as ESPN, Sports Illustrated, FOX Sports, MSN.com, FanSided.com, and About.com. Zack can be reached on Twitter (@ZackKelberman) or via email (zpkelb@gmail.com).
  • scott

    So finish the story…..what did they change the nick name to.

  • New Cell

    Redskin potatoe.. Oops can’t use that.. Redskin apples, Oops can’t use that. I know Deadskin!!

  • Shad Olsen

    Anyone who comments here should be able to name at least 50 of the 500 Native American nations, otherwise they prove that America does not teach the subject of Native American history and culture, and thus, those who comment on it without a proper education are giving opinions that reveal themselves to be ignorant. I would ask the writer, is it “a little disheartening” that the Native Americans are the only people in the land of religious freedom who have had their religion outlawed? Genocide, broken treaties, forced sterilization… are those “a little disheartening”? Instead of mocking the people we are too ashamed of to learn about, why don’t we let the “redskins” name die and show a little respect… unfortunately, respect is not an aspect of our culture whereas it is central to traditional Native American values. Most people have not taken the time to learn much of anything about the people they insult with terms that have been used for centuries to de-humanize. It goes much deeper than a bunch of hippies getting huffy over a mascot. It’s like hailing the Nazi symbol without having the least idea what it stands for.

    • Though I am not a Native American, and without doubt when Europeans showed up on this land they did all the things you say they did. Notive Americans have been treated horribly.
      Did you know the man that gave the then “Boston Redskins” their name, was Native American? it was done so as to homage to his people. Much the same way that words meanings change over time, and the acceptance of the terms change. It seems a little strange to me that in the name of political correctness we must change the names of these teams.
      I have not seen, but I do not deny, that Native Americans are up in arms over the nick name of a High Schools sports team. In fact I have read that Native American’s route for the Washington Redskins.
      People like yourself grandstanding about this issue is disgusting.

      • Shad Olsen

        Steven, I’m part Ojibwe but I’m not worried about the effects on the Ojibwe. I’m worried about the effects on the kids who go to these schools and who will have no idea how to speak to a real Native American when they meet one. I don’t mean to be disgusting. I just feel very passionately that respect for our fellow Americans is much more important than a mob without enough imagination to rename their mascot.

        • Shad Olsen

          And, Steven, the Boston Redskins were named in 1932 at the height of de-humanizing Indians via boarding schools in which their language, culture and worship was strictly forbidden to take away their identity (“kill the Indian to save the child”). This led to a generation of Natives who felt lost and had no connection to their past and little connection to their children as they had been taken away from their own parents. It’s ok that some Native people have no problem with these slurs. I can only speak for myself and for those who see the need for better manners, especially in educational institutions.

        • Mike Palmer

          Mr. Olsen, may I inquire as to just how one is to speak to a real Native American when they meet one? I would guess that one would speak to a real Native American as they would any other American. To do otherwise would be descriminatory.

        • Charles C

          You claim to be part Ojibwe, but I’d like to know what “part” you are. I’ve know many whites who, after months of acquaintainship, asserted to me that they were Native American. I found that to be stunning, considering that they had all appearances of being white. Had they not told me of their allegedly ancestry, I would have had no idea. Which leads me to this question, why are many whites so willing to espouse their “Native American-ness”at the expense of dispensing with their white ancestry?

          • Rodger DeRamus

            Charles, everyone that lives in this country, except the American Indians (that is the name they are associated with, not Native American), came from another country as far as ancestry goes. My ancestors came from France, but during the French Revolution, they escaped to Switzerland and changed their name. When they landed in South Carolina, they had changed their names to the Americanized version. So, even though I am French/Swiss/American, I consider myself American.
            I have had the privilege of talking to a man who was, as he said half Indian and he said that all the Indian names, the Braves, the Indians, Red Skins, or the Florida Seminoles does not offend him in the least. He is way more offended by the so-called Documentaries about the reservations they are living on. Instead of spending millions on making a documentaries about the living conditions and the abuse of alcohol by the Indian men, they could have used the money to help the children of those families they chose to interview.
            Just saying, some are offended, but most of them don’t even live on the reservation…

      • James

        Sorry Steven, the Boston Redskins were named by George Preston Marshall, an avowed racist. Marshall is famous for declaring that the Washington Redskins (the Boston Redskins moved to DC )would never have a black player. Marshall kept that vow until Stewart Udall, JFK’s Secretary of Interior, told Marshall that his team would not be allowed to play in then brand new DC Stadium (later renamed RFK Stadium) unless he integrated the team. Marshall was furious and threatened to move the team, but with the season quickly approaching and old Griffith Stadium torn down, Marshall had no choice and traded for Cleveland Browns running back Bobby Mitchell for the Redskin’s number one pick.

        • Shad Olsen

          Thanks for the facts, James. Paints a very different picture. Just did a quick search on Marshall and found his racism took up most of the article. I don’t think he makes a great case for the status quo.

    • curtis

      Give me a break ….lighten up

    • James

      Shad, so when did you become the authority on limits for others opinions. In THIS country we have what is called free speech. This enables us to speak freely without the restraints of oppressive simple minded people like yourself. I for one cannot name more than a handful of tribal names yet I can still have an opinion and I’ll be damned if I will let anyone place limits on when I can speak on a subject. This type of suppressive behavior is exactly the opposite one would expect from someone of a, so called, suppressed people. Or is this your attempt at payback?
      If for some reason you really have issue with non reservation facilities nicknames perhaps you should stick to reservation only issues as I am sure you do not want me having an opinion on anything that would go on there.
      Now ponder the idea that you are the one perpetuating racism here. You are the one decades later still beating the drum of discord and doing so in an oppressive manner by placing limits on who can have an opinion here.
      Now if you really want something interesting to ponder perhaps you can explain how oppressive the Ojibwe people were to say the Sioux or Menominee tribes who were displaced from their Ancestral lands from Ojibwe expansionism in the 1500’s. Talk about hypocrisy. I don’t see you mentioning that well known fact.
      Point is, no one alive today was involved in the acts, horrible as they were that occurred in the 1500’s or the 1800’s. So all of this is something we have to move forward from and stop acting like we are victims. No one alive today in American has ever oppressed another people of any color. How long do we blame someone for the actions of others of the same race. Because I am white I am racist? That is bullshit. Because I am White I think slavery is ok, again that is bullshit. I do not want to be labeled a racist, oppressive inhumane person because of my skin color, ethnicity or heritage. I would hope that would also mean I would not want to be a victim for life of the same abuses because of my skin color, ethnicity or heritage. That door swings both ways. I grew up in South Jersey, high school teams like Lenape, Cherokee, Shawnee -all proud powerhouse schools. I went to a local rival school Moorestown. Our mascot was a Quaker. That’s right a religious symbol. My family were not Quakers. We moved to New Jersey from NYC. I didn’t even know what a Quaker was. But I was a proud Quaker in high school. Whether it was Football or Wrestling or whatever, I WAS A QUAKER.
      I say our school, facilities and places keep their names, to remind us of OUR history. This is how we never forget, this is how our children learn by asking “What is a Quaker”, “What is a Chief”? etc etc etc or perhaps we should just erase it all to make it as fake and meaningless as life surely is not.

  • Matt

    Quite ironic that you bring up the Nazi symbol, the swastika, and speak of others being ignorant. The swastika was around long before the Nazi party and has been used by many religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism as a symbol of luck or well-being. The word “swastika” comes from the Sanskrit word “svastika” and literally means “to be good” or “being with higher self”.
    This further points to context being the key in deciding if a symbol or name is inherently offensive. Obviously, the Hindu swastika does not stand for the promotion of the Aryan race, as it did with the Nazi party. I think it is safe to assume that this school does not discriminate against students of Native American decent. If there is evidence that it does, lets get the school board to focus on that first, then change the name.
    At this point, the context of the term “Redskin” is used to describe a student of this school, not a person of Native American descendant. It is something everyone in this school is familiar with. It is something to be proud of. So, unless you are prejudice (definition – preconceived opinion not based on reason or experience), you wouldn’t be offended by this either.
    For further irony, look up the Chilocco Indian Agricultural School. It was an agricultural school for Native Americans located in north-central Oklahoma from 1884 to 1980. Prior to 1942, their basketball team used the swastika as a logo. The swastika was a common symbol used by American Indians until World War II.

  • Shad Olsen

    Matt, very good point- I understand the history of the swastika but I still stand by the comparison. The word redskin is no more harmful than the ancient symbol of the swastika, but as soon as both were used in mass genocide, they became loaded with new meaning. The Native Americans are possibly the most marginalized people in the land and the carelessness for their history and current state is certainly not helped by the “redskins”.

    • Nedd

      Shad, I understand you position, but I agree with Matt. Furthermore, I would say that “Redskin” was once pejorative, but I think that is no longer the case. Maybe I am wrong. I am more offended by teams that promote religion like the San Diego Padres or the New Orleans Saints.

  • Shad Olsen

    I also have to say I disagree on the way you understand the context. I don’t see this as a bunch of kids harmlessly chanting an old racist word at a prep rally. I see this as a turning point in our culture. How is the next generation going to deal with the “indian problem” that plagued the forefathers? Can we finally emerge from the most shameful chapter in American history with understanding, enlightenment, compassion, and pride?

  • Rex Murphy

    Talk about a bunch of liberal bed-wetter, panty-waists goody two-shoe, hall monitor, sissified dorks. The “PC” morons at the NCAA are trying to do this to the University of South Dakota, i.e.: the “Fighting Sioux.” I hope they fight and sue………
    I saw this go down at Miami University in Oxford, where my daughter went to college just up the road from us. Every year for years and I mean years, a small group of “PC” morons who clearly have way too much time on their hands would contact the Miami Tribe out in Oklahoma to try and stir them up over the name “Miami Redskins.” Every year, to their profound disappointment, they would receive the news from the “Miami Tribe” that “No,” we are not angry or offended. Finally, tantamount to “do you promise to leave us alone if we say “yes,” the Miami Tribe agreed to be offended.” The “PC” morons then said: “You see, we told you they were offended!” So the village idiots who run the school changed the name. Ridiculous, simply ridiculous……….
    I think I’ll contact the NCAA and complain about Notre Dame’s name: “Fighting Irish,” I mean as an Irishman, this really offends me……………… Shouldn’t everyone be offended about something? This is America, don’t we have the right to be offended and expect everyone else to change and kowtow to our little emotional hissy-fits?

    • Not a Straight White Male

      The world is perfect how it is, any change is stupid, this is AMERICA. Signed – the straight white male.

    • James

      I agree completely with Rex. The Irish are the most oppressed people in the history of the world. Still an occupied territory by a foreign invading government. So I agree with Rex, especially if there is someone on the Notre Dame team of English ancestry.
      Really? This is what we have come to. Before any of you take to pen to retort to my obvious attempt at humor of the ridiculous, this is about as dumb a topic for argument as I have seen.
      Perhaps, Whiteface High in Texas needs to be looked at next or maybe Round Eye supply in Georgia as I am sure there have been a few non round eye customers who were mighty offended. How about the Catholic Church, the cross was a symbol of tyranny in the crusades and perhaps it would be better if they changed their symbol to hmmm, an X or a O, yea yea a O.
      Orrrrrrrrrrr we could just stop putting idiots and jackasses in positions of influence and power to cause problems. This entire school board should be fired and made to wear tinfoil hats for the next year. Unbelievable. Use your brains people and stop the madness.

  • Shad Olsen

    Rex, you’re entitled to your opinion. But it really sucks.

  • Shad Olsen

    I should elaborate. Even if NO ONE is offended- shouldn’t we teach our kids to be better than that? Better than accidental racism? Why is hollering “fighting sioux” so important to you? Do you know what you’re saying when you say it? You’re calling (probably) white athletes by a French abbreviation for a misheard Ojibwe word for the Dakota people that was an elaboration on their word for Iroquois. If you didn’t know AT LEAST that much, you don’t know enough on this topic to have an opinion based in anything but old traditions that do absolutely no good. REDSKINS, you can do better. Use your imagination. You’ll come up with a new name of which you can be very proud.

    • James

      How about the Sioux Displacers? Obviously that would not be a good Ojibwe school name but I think perhaps the Sioux would understand.

  • New Cell

    I’m with Rex… WHERE DOES IT END!!!

    • Mike Palmer

      It never ends. Someone will ALWAYS be offended by something. I find it rather amusing that some of those of Native American Heritage are “offended” by sports teams names. Guess they have nothing better to occupy their time. Yes, I have “Native American” blood running in my veins too. Am I offended by some sports teams name? Not hardly.

    • Charles C

      Mike, when you say that you are “Not hardly” offended, you do realize that what you are saying is that you ARE offended: The word “hardly” has a negative meaning (it means “not all” or “scarcely”), therefore, “not hardly” is a double negative, meaning the opposite, i.e., that you ARE offended. So, are you offended or are you not offended?

    • Not a Straight White Male

      The world is perfect how it is! Change is stupid! Signed – the straight white male

  • Shad Olsen

    New Cell, obviously, it ends with peace and dignity. I’m sorry you have to treat everyone fairly and nicely but ask Paula Deen, the country no longer finds racism funny, folksy or acceptable. I know it’s hard to change your old ways. But it’s happening. And no one deserves a change for the better than the Native Americans.

  • Kevin Risen

    Now maybe the Pekin Chinks in Pekin, Illinois will do the same.

  • Kevin Risen

    Actually Pekin changed their name in the 80’s to the Dragons. My bad.

  • Shad Olsen

    That’s a perfect example, Kevin. Chinese American groups tried to get the name changed in the 70s and only in the 80s did it finally take effect. You wouldn’t get away with saying “chinks” in polite society today. So why are the “redskins” STILL waiting in 2013??

  • will

    Shad: great discussion, but aren’t we perpetuating the issue/offense and supporting the tainted stigma of historic names and symbols by changing them? Doesn’t that message speak clearly to forgetting history (the good and the bad)?

  • New Cell

    Peace and dignity good luck with that! that’s unfortunately disappeared in modern-day 21st-century… I don’t think you see the big picture Shad… the new liberal idiotology- has run rampant throughout America and now we are governed by the thought police. I plan to Apologize for having white parents… All the best my friend…

  • Shad Olsen

    Will, I think you may be right as long as there is some discussion and negotiation. If we leave things the way they are, I think it reflects very poorly on us as a country- but if holding on to these school mascots is really so important to some people, then I would propose leaving the name in exchange for mandatory classes on Native American issues which should focus on both the historical and current. When I moved to New York from Minnesota, no one had any idea what I was saying when I told them I was Ojibwe- third largest tribe in the U.S. And some will read this and say, who cares? I NEVER see Native Amerians and our lives are completely seperate. But until America matures enough to learn from our own history, we’re doomed to repeat it… to someone else… and guess who is poised to be the new minority.

    • Shad Olsen

      And when I say “until America matures”, I just want to be clear that I mean we are immature in that we’re still a very young country and still figuring out this experimental government.

  • John

    Can I name fifty tribes, no. Can I look up the 565 or 566 (depends on source) tribes recognized by the federal government? Go to Wikipedia (like I did) and look for federally recognized tribes and there is a list of them. There are also several tribes not recognized by the federal government (not included in this list). Can you name any of the nineteen? And then there are a number of tribes recognized by only by states.

    So, along with Redskin(s), let’s do away with Warriors (even though it is a description for fighting men of any origin) as Marquette University, did going from the Warriors to Golden Eagles in the ’90s. Let’s also change the names of those states that are based on Native American names and words, such as Iowa, Illinois, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, and several others. Then we can start on counties and cities, not to mention various high schools and colleges.

    Oh, yeah. Let’s rename those tribes that have non-native american names. These include the Agua Caliente, Augustine Band, Bad River, Bay Mills, and numerous others. And do not forget the Nez Perce (from the French “pierced nose”).

    After that, let’s start on those offensive names we apply to the immigrants to our country. Towel heads, kikes, spicks, micks, polocks, heinies, chinks, sand niggers (oops the n-word), etc. How about the Frito bandito and other offensive animated creatures?

    Is there a theme in this? You bet. Everyone can find something offensive in almost everything. Get over it, folks.

    Just for reference, I worked for an Indian tribe for two years. I found the members of the tribe to be much like other peoples, including prejudices. What differeniated them was (among other things) their definition of “profit”. It revolved around their ability to provide for their community. Also, they used the concept of “Indian time”, a not-so-bad belief that things will happen when they happen. There were things like deadlines, but they tended to not be hard and fast. As a group, they were great to work for and be with.

    • James

      John you sir have hit the nail on the head. As a mick / sand nigger AMERICAN I absolutely agree with you, kudo’s.

  • Scott McNabb

    Anything but the Pelicans!!

    • Charles C

      Scott, as a native Louisianian, I take personal offense to you mocking comment. (To those not in the know, the state bird of Louisana is the pelican).

  • Shad Olsen

    John, first of all, I appreciate that you know as much as you do. Pretty rare. Also, I appreciate the shout-out to Bad River. But I’m surprised you don’t see anything wrong with young people using a racist slur without knowing it’s a racist slur. I’m white enough that I’ve never been called a “redskin” and I’m pretty sure no one has used that word to insult someone in a long time. But when all other racist slurs become bad manners, why should these persist? Paula Deen can’t say the n-word in the past but we can continually cheer on the Lamar, Colorado Savages? That’s why I get offended. While celebrities are taken to task for the slightest comments on race, whole communities endorse a racial slur because there is one group of people left who have very little representation in the world. And hardly anybody cares.

  • John

    I missed another group that had its languages, religions, and freedoms forcibly taken from them — black Americans. In point of fact, some native americans owned black slaves. In addition, there were those who made captives into slaves.

    For those who think that I am bad-mouthing native Americans, I recognize the fact that the Oneida became known as the First Allies of the new United States. They fought along side American troops on several occasions and even provided some of their own food used by the troops at Valley Forge.

  • Shad Olsen

    The slave trade actually included Native Americans. I’m sure a few owned slaves for some strange reason, but the Indian slave trade was pretty epic and gets overshadowed. This period in American history was captured beautifully in a song by Native (Tuscarora) singer, Pura Fe, in her song, Red Black on Blue. Give her a listen- partly for the history and perspective but mostly because the lady has an amazing voice.

    • will

      … overshadowed as does the Chinese, Hawaiian, and Samoan slave trade. Sorry, just representing all of those because I run the gambit (along with Irish and Native American)… damn white devils. LOL

  • When I was a child we sang a song in Sunday School: “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, red, and yellow, black, and white, they are precious in His sight…” I don’t know of any of those children I sang that song with that have been emotionally scared.

    • Mike

      There is a difference to saying someon has red skin, a black person, a child with retardation, to naming them “redskin”, “nigger”, and “retard.” If you think “Washington Niggers” is a bad name, than so is “Washington Redskin.” And especially a high school should change the name.

  • John

    I don’t understand your statement “But I’m surprised you don’t see anything wrong with young people using a racist slur without knowing it’s a racist slur.” That was something that I did not address. The words that I listed have been in use for as long as I have been around (I was born when Roosevelt was president and I don’t mean Teddy). Those who use today, in most cases probably does not know or understand their origin. These may be offensive to some (particurlarly those to whom they are directed). However, the continual of that four-letter word the rhymes with “firetruck” and its derivatives is something that is unnecessary and may be offensive to some. As a former member of the US Navy, I will admit to using it on more than several occasions. (Did I just insult other members of our Navy by implying its common use?)

    As to some of the things that you may find offensive, “savage”, “warrior”, to name a few, apply to more that native americans.

    From Wikipedia, “a warrior is a person skilled in combat or warfare, especially within the context of a tribal or clan-based society that recognizes a separate warrior class.” Tribal does not relate to just native americans.

    Again from Wikipedia (don’t ya just love it) and among other definitions in Wikipedia, a savage is “Any person, group or behavior distinct from civilization”. This definition would include many more people and groups other than native americans and from many locations around the globe.

  • John

    My source regarding native americans owning slaves is (once again) from Wikipedia.

    The article is “Native American recognition in the United States”. The section is “Recent shift to “political” definition”, the fourth paragraph. This may be only one instance or one of many. I don’t know.

    Slavery is a world-wide phenomen, practiced by many cultures for eons. There is even trade today. One cannot single out any group as the bad guys. So much for civilation.

  • Jonas

    Shad needs to get a job, get a life, and get over it.

  • Tsali Shaheen

    I’m a Native American and any name less than the race, show no respect to the people who welcome you with arms wide open and after what the Europeans done to us. This will be the first of many name changes coming.

  • Vinny

    you fucking leftists.. I hope Political correct ruins this country. I hope this shithole country goes to hell.

  • craig

    there is so much else going on in this world and this is news to people. so what!!! I am a redskins season ticket holder and have been through the name change scenarios before. guess what…. dan Snyder=$$$$. $$$$=getting what you want. do you get the picture. there will never be a name change as long as a man name Snyder is pulling the strings. go find something else to bitch about.

  • James

    I find it funny that the school board that made the decision to do this can be reached at sboard@ptsd50.org wait a minute. Is that ptsd in their email address? Are they making light of ptsd and the sacrifice we few made in combat. I take offense to that blatant use of a serious acronym for a very real issue to be used as an email address. Is this school un-Patriotic? Un-American? Anti-VETERAN? Hmmmmmmmmm?