Bountiful High embraces new mascotDec 02, 2021 12:30PM ● By Roger V. Tuttle
BOUNTIFUL—Change may be inevitable, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Just ask Aaron Hogge, principal of Bountiful High School. He oversaw the change of a beloved “Brave” mascot to the unknown Redhawks in a little over a year. In the summer of 2020, there was quite a bit of social media talk about the racist nature of the Brave mascot.
“As a principal I was sensitive about any negative talk about our mascot because we try to inspire in our students accepting and loving everybody and our students do that beautifully, but it concerned me that [negativity] might be a feeling out in the community,” Hogge said. “As the talk became heightened, some political officials got involved in it and I got quite a bit of communication, emails, phone calls, visits and my first reaction was, we’re a school, let’s not politicize our mascot. If there are aspects of what we do in our practice that need to change then we will change them.”
He immediately went to several Native Americans in the school system and asked, “I’m not a Native American. Share with me what could be offensive about what we do.” The answer regarded the savage and barbaric depiction of the Native American Brave. “And so, we really went away from the image; no likeness, no face,” he said. “We went to the “B” with the feather and really tried to mitigate that. Well, we still had practices in our 70 years that I think were very well intended, that were fun and tried to unite and I think it did for years and years. And it started to get a little divisive and a little insensitive.”
Even with the initial changes there were still voices of disapproval. “My goal was, what do we need to do as a school to keep our mascot and be sensitive to those that might feel ostracized by it,” said Hogge.
He went to the School Board, and said, “You’re hearing all the talk, what’s our direction? Should we study this? Should we get a committee together; parents, students, community, and study. But, let’s make sure we’re not doing anything rash. Our mascot should be welcoming and inviting and unifying. If there’s an aspect of our mascot that isn’t, then let’s change it.”
Hogge then did “listening” sessions and research on what was happening around the country and he saw a trend in Major League Baseball teams and football teams going away from those Native American depictions.
“Now, I did a lot of research and there’s as much out there to keep it as there is to change it,” said Hogge. “You can find what you’re looking for! And so, we decided to really give those Native Americans that we associate with here, that are a part of our community, a lot of say. As we did the listening and research, what we found is that we loved being the Braves and were happy with it and we want to keep it, unless it offends Native Americans. That was kind of the caveat. Those that were opposed to the Braves mascot [told us], ‘we don’t want to be a pet. We don’t want to be your mascot,’ which in Spanish, mascota is pet. They didn’t want to be a pet.”
Hogge said the decision at first was really difficult, “We worked closely with the Shoshone tribe, and they were really split too, but they also said ‘Braves’ really isn’t even a word in our language. It was a term given to Native Americans by the Colonists. And so, as we got into it, we found the consensus among Native Americans was, we don’t want to be a mascot, we want you to change it. And the consensus among those that had that strong tradition of Bountiful Braves [they] wanted it because they have always had it. So, we felt if there is any sort of division that is taking place, not unifying, we have power to change – it’s just a name. It was a beautiful name and a fun name and a great way to unify the community for 70 years and things are changing and it’s OK.”
Hogge spoke to several long-standing Bountiful supporters and one told him, “We have been fighting that negative stereo-type for years. The snowball is crashing. Let it crash.” He thought, “Wow! What a powerful statement. Why toe that line? Why try to walk a really fine line where you don’t want to offend either side. Let’s just unify our school and move forward. We are way better than a name, so let’s move forward. And that was our decision.”
In order to implement the change, Hogge petitioned the District, “If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it well,” he said. “I asked them to not effect students at Bountiful High, financially. This would need to be separate funding and they [the school district] have been terrific. I thought at first, wow, this is going to be pretty astronomical – the cost. And, really a lot of what a school does, there is regular evolution of uniforms and banners and signage. It’s a constant turnover. Certainly, there are some things, like a gym floor. A gym floor is done on a regular basis, we sped them up so that we could meet the mascot needs. But, it’s something we normally do. Uniforms, we’re replacing regularly. You look at marque and scoreboards, those are pretty minor revisions and the cost has been much less than I anticipated.”
With the school board’s support, Hogge then set out to select a new mascot. “We wanted our students involved in the process, so we gave them a chance to fill out a survey and they submitted thousands of names and we looked at what are the leading names and got it down to about 20, and then did it again, and said here’s some names, let’s do those and got it down to four. Once we got it down to four, we sent it back out and said, ‘alright, which one do you want to be?’”
Once the Redhawks mascot was determined, the student body officers gave it a name. “So, we actually have, Reggie the Redhawk,” Hogge said. “We haven’t created a costume or anything that somebody would dress up in. I don’t think we are planning to do that. But, when we refer to our Red Hawk, he’s Reggie. That’s new and that’s totally the kids. The response from our students has really been fun. I’m really proud of our students. Even seniors who have been here for two years as Braves, they’re the Redhawks and they are moving forward with that. Just really proud of our kids.”
A tour around the school reveals the new mascot logo is everywhere. “I think that was very intentional on our part,” he said. “We want our community to have that sense of pride. I have this whole line-up of year books from 1951 on and that tradition is so rich and so wonderful, and we want it to continue as Bountiful High School regardless of the name of the mascot. We really worked hard to get that imagery [the Redhawks] out there so that the pride can come.”
In this process of change, the inevitable question is, “Where do you go from here?” Hogge responded with a bit of academic pride. “We’re a school and where we go is teaching our students to be accountable and to work hard and to learn their math, science, English and language arts. That’s where we go! The mascot should unify and help give ownership and have kids feel like they are a part of a school, not pull us apart. We’re a school, we’re about education. And, we don’t want any distractions. And the mascot was a distraction for a period of time. So, let’s move forward. There is still a challenge. I’m not here to tell you everybody’s totally bought into it. There’s some, ‘Eeegh, I wish you wouldn’t have changed. But, you’re still Bountiful High School, so let’s move forward.’And I appreciate that. I’m just really proud of our community and proud of our students.”