A school board in Washington state voted this week to retire the nickname Redskins from one of its high schools because it was viewed as racist and insensitive.
Port Townsend High School had been the Redskins for 88 years but now will choose a new nickname later this year.
The debate began when Andrew Sheldon of Port Townsend wrote a letter to the school board in 2012 asking for a change. He said he was ‘’offended, embarrassed and ashamed by our school mascot,’’ according to the Peninsula Daily News.
Controversies such as these seldom brew in Georgia, which has more high school teams that are nicknamed Indians (16) than any other Southern state. (Florida has nine, North Carolina only one, for example).
GHSA-member schools nicknamed Indians are Albany, Armuchee, Charlton County, Chattooga, Cross Keys, Dodge County, East Coweta, Irwin County, Lumpkin County, McEachern, Murray County, Seminole County, Stephens County, Tallulah Falls, Towns County and Vidalia.
The only nicknames that are more common in Georgia are Bulldogs (28), Tigers (23), Eagles (22) and Panthers (19).
Two Georgia schools – Bryan County and Social Circle – are nicknamed the Redskins. There also are 14 Georgia schools nicknamed the Warriors, and most have Native American mascots or logos. Six others are named Chiefs, Cherokees or Seminoles.
That means that roughly 1 in 12 Georgia high schools have Native American nicknames.
In March, a bill went to Congress that would ban ‘’Redskin’’ as a trademark (part of the Trademark Act of 1946). Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, was among the sponsors. Lewis, a Civil Rights activist, has not taken up the cause in his home state.
Indians is not a popular name for new Georgia schools. Each of the 16 Georgia schools named Indians date back more than 40 years. The last Georgia school to adopt a Native American nickname was Westside of Macon (the Seminoles) in 1997.
The last time that a nickname controversy came up in Georgia was 2010, and it had nothing to do with Native Americans. A pastor in Houston County objected to Warner Robins’ nickname, the Demons. He was arrested for picketing at the school.
In 2006, West Georgia University changed its nickname to Wolves from Braves. There isn’t an example of a Georgia high school making a similar name change.
The change in Port Townsend was not embraced by all.
“I’m a Port Townsend graduate from the Class of 1962, and I am damn proud to be a Redskin,” Harold Roger told the Peninsula News. ‘’How many of you [the board] were born and raised here? None. If you don’t like it here, you should move out of Port Townsend.”