From Indians to Huskies

Lately, news of mascots and some of their more choice names have been swamping the media. A California high school named the Arabs, a small town in Illinois sporting the Midgets and the ever popular Washington Redskins are just a few of the teams feeling the heat to change. The difficulty in finding what is and is not acceptable in a team figurehead is magnified by the fact that there is no rule book in deciding- instead, teams must use their own sense of ethical guidelines. The problem is that ethics differ from person to person.

With November being Native American Appreciation Month, Thanksgiving nearing our schedules, and all of the media mascot backlash currently happening, it might be interesting to look into the Owatonna Indian- Huskie swap. As in, why exactly did we make the switch?

According to Mr. Pete Grant, co-chair of the mascot renaming committee, the decision began with a push for school districts to go away from Native American mascots. At the time of the decision, there were over a dozen of schools in Minnesota with an Indian related mascot. But in 1995, the pressure to change became heavier. There were only three or four school districts left that had not changed. Grant said, “We decided at that time that we were not going to be the last school district waiting.” And so with that the decision was made: they would put together a committee of students, faculty and community representatives to rename the mascot.

They set up a plan that was student directed and they began to survey the state to find out what kind of mascots were already used. “We thought,” Grant said,”that if this is going to be successful, the students have to make it work.” They ended up with hundreds of potential names. From there, they had two or three top choices: the Thunder, the Pride or the Huskies. The problem with the first two was that there was not an easily identifiable mascot to go with them. But Grant said, “With the Huskie it was almost like gravity, we had a mascot we could identify.”

Grant also talked about how difficult for the alumni to switch. “There was a lot of ‘once an Indian always an Indian’ going on,” Grant said. This shift not only affected students, but teachers as well. English teacher Doug Wanous was once an Indian himself. “Although I thought the Indian mascot was very cool, I am now proud to be a dog.” Wanous was also apart of the renaming committee.

OHS is a prideful school, the suppport felt and shown at our events is insurmountable.  The name may have changed, but the community did not.  In the end it does not matter if it is called the Owatonna Indians or the Huskies; Owatonna’s fan sections will always drown out the rest.