For Bellingham High School, 2021 will be the last year the Red Raider is their mascot. The change is due to the mascot having elements of racial connotations towards Native Americans.
BHS staff expressed excitement toward a future of community inclusiveness as the school’s mascot will now be called the Bayhawks.
Dana Smith, communications manager for BHS, said when the school opened in 1938, their first mascot was a Red Raider that was symbolized by the head of a Native American man. In the year 2000, the school decided to change their symbol to a red-tailed hawk because the imagery of a Native American man was not culturally sensitive, Smith said.
“The student leaders at the school said we think the steps that were taken in 2000 was better than nothing, but we feel like it needs to go further,” Smith said. “We do not want to have a mascot that has a name that was originally tied to a stereotype that described our Native American neighbors.”
BHS decided that a mascot change was necessary, so a task force group was created. The group included the BHS principal, a representative from Lummi Nation, members of the community and students, Smith said.
The task force was designated to decide what was appropriate for the next school mascot, Smith said.
Martin Atkins, first year principal at BHS, said after deliberation between the task force and the community, the BHS mascot will be officially named the Bayhawks.
Atkins said the best part about the task force process was everyone in the group did a five-day activity that included a historical study of Bellingham and analyzed the history of other teams that changed their mascot.
Smith said the mascot change is all a part of BHS working toward a culture of inclusiveness, so changing the mascot has become a huge step toward every student feeling like they belong on campus.
Marci Hensley, former BHS student and a case manager for Lummi Indian Business Council, said in an email to The Front, “Going to a school where I only knew one other Native American student in school was definitely hard and was a culture shock for me. So, I am glad they (BHS) are taking that step, it could make all the difference in the generations to come.”
In the fall, an artist will work with students on the new mascot’s look and what colors will be used, Atkins said.
Atkins explains the three collective commitments made at BHS in 2000, created by staff and students.
“We respect this place, we respect the people and we do quality work,” Atkins said.
Atkins said he shares these collectives with the hope that this change will make the community realize the BHS mascot should represent those collectives no matter what it looks like.
Juan Baldovinos Jr. is a senior at Western Washington University, majoring in Journalism in the News/ Editorial BA program. Juan is a part of The Front and focuses on news occurring in Whatcom County. When not reporting Juan enjoys spending time with his family, and watching sports. Juan has goals to be a sports journalist. You can contact Juan at firstname.lastname@example.org