Should the Brave be our Mascot? Yes!

George Kite, Staff Writer

 

When Brebeuf was founded in 1962, the Brave was the main mascot of the school, often represented with the portrait of a Native American, a tomahawk, or an arrow. In recent years, the depiction of a Native American person as a mascot has been very controversial. This controversy has come from the thought that having a Native American as a mascot is insensitive to members of that culture. Not only has the depiction of the Brave mascot been removed from school spirit items since 2008, but the Washington Redskins have faced scrutiny for using a Native American man as their mascot.

The Brave mascot isn’t offensive, however, unlike the case of the Redskins.

Most recently, the controversy flared up two years ago when people petitioned against the Washington Redskins and asked them to change their name. The Redskins were attacked and defended on news and social media, but the team has yet to change their name. Much of the backlash is based on the team’s name and what is viewed by some as the mocking of Native American traditions.

Now, the simple name Redskins doesn’t sound right, does it? Native Americans don’t even have red skin; it’s a shade of tan. Plus, the team’s fans often portray or depict Native Americans in face paint, feathers, chants, and dances that mock traditions that are culturally significant to Native American tribes. Especially in light of America’s historical treatment of Native Americans, the Redskins don’t deserve to have that name or mascot.

What about Brebeuf? In 2008, the school’s administration decided to remove all Spirit Store clothing with the Brave symbol, arrows, tomahawks, feathers, and any other imagery that relates to Native Americans; the decision was made when the administration saw the issue of Native American mascot insensitivity at other schools and decided that it was best to remove the symbols to ensure that they did not depict Native Americans in a violent manner.

The decision was mandated with sports uniforms as well, but teams didn’t entirely stop using traditional Brebeuf symbols until recently. For example, the cross country uniforms no longer have an arrow in the “XC” design, despite the arrow being an international symbol for cross country.

I beg to differ with the claim that the Brave and Native American imagery are insensitive, however. The Brebeuf Braves don’t have the same context as the Redskins. The Brave were chosen as our mascot because of St. Jean de Brebeuf’s missionary work with the Huron tribe and their bravery in the face of the Iroquois. The Brave mascot does not mock Native Americans but rather appreciates the bravery that many Native Americans displayed in their historical challenges. We should keep the Braves’ mascot as a Native American, but do so in a respectful manner. Imitations and depictions of the Brave as violent and savage rather than brave would not be doing St. Jean de Brebeuf’s work credit.

Native American influence can be seen throughout Brebeuf. Teepees and canoes decorate the chapel mural, our school newspaper is titled The Arrow, our school dog is named Chief, and we study St. Jean de Brebeuf and Native Americans in our religion and history classes. To simply say that the Brave mascot is insensitive to Native Americans isn’t fair to Brebeuf because it’s a major part of our spirit and history that reveres the Huron Native Americans for their bravery in standing against their enemies.

We are the Brebeuf Braves, not just Brebeuf.

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