Group continues push to remove ‘Red Raider’ mascot from Gaston County school

It’s another push by local tribal leaders, community members, students and more to get rid of the Red Raider mascot at South Pointe High School.
It’s another push by local tribal leaders, community members, students, parents and more to get rid of the Red Raider mascot at South Point High School.
Published: Oct. 17, 2022 at 5:51 AM EDT
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GASTON COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - Community groups in Gaston County held a rally Monday in an ongoing push to get rid of what’s been called an offensive mascot at a Gaston County high school.

It’s another push by local tribal leaders, community members, students, parents and more to get rid of the Red Raider mascot at South Point High School.

It’s another push by local tribal leaders, community members, students, parents and more to get rid of the Red Raider mascot at South Point High School.

Native American Association leaders will join “Retire the Red Raider” supporters at the rally to voice opposition to the mascot that has been in place since 1947.

The image is of a Native American warrior with red skin. Organizers with the Catawba Tribe have called the mascot demeaning and stereotypical.

However, there are some who have said that they support keeping the mascot as is, saying there weren’t concerns until recently and blaming cancel culture for this push.

Rebecca LaClaire is a member of the Lumbee Tribe and is the President of the Metrolina Native American Association. LaClaire says changing the mascot is long overdue and is offensive to her and other indigenous people.

“I am not a mascot, no ethnic race should be a mascot,” LaClaire said. “There’s no other ethnic race in the United States that is a mascot, and why should Native Americans be mascots?”

“Lots of people don’t know that it’s offensive,” added Angelea White, a member of the Puyallup tribe.

In the meantime, others like Janet Walls want the mascot to stay.

“It’s just the way I grew up and I’ve always been proud of the Indian and the symbol it represents. The Red Raider spirit and pride,” explained Walls, a South Point graduate in the class of 1980.

The Retire the Red Raider Organization started in 2020 as a renewed push for the school district to change the mascot.

The controversy has been ongoing for a few years now. Protest organizers have said the Gaston County School Board is ignoring their concerns and falsely claimed the mascot has the support of local tribes, all the while ignoring a petition with 11,000 signatures to get rid of it.

“Especially after the [Washington] Redskins changed were changed, and many people did not think that would ever change. You would think this would be a simple solution,” LaClaire said.

Richard Boyce is the former mayor of Belmont and all four of his children graduated from South Point High School.

Boyce says it’s time for the Board to facilitate meetings and work toward change for everyone.

“I am not against the values or the way this school brings us together, I just think this name now has not only become divisive in our community but it’s detrimental to our indigenous neighbors who are still with us today,” Boyce said.

Related: Group calls for removal of ‘Red Raider’ mascot at Gaston County school

The school board released a statement saying it has no policy on mascots and that members have listened to both sides of the issue, and that changing the mascot should happen at the school and community levels.

“After two years of ignoring valid concerns, now is the time - right after Indigenous People’s Day and as we approach Native American Heritage Month - to take these concerns seriously and begin moving toward true dialogue and change,” Boyce said.

LaClaire believes that the community both in favor of changing the mascot and in favor of keeping it have already let their stance be known, she says it’s time for the Board of Education to step in.

“If I could have one goal tonight it would be for the Gaston County School Board to actually sit down and let’s have a meeting or for Gaston County School Board to at least acknowledge that what they’ve been saying that this is a community fight is wrong,” she said.

“We believe that the portrayal of American Indians as mascots is demeaning and detrimental to American Indians and should not be utilized in an educational environment,” said Gregory A. Richardson (Haliwa-Saponi), executive director of the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs, which has publicly opposed Native American mascots since 2000. “The North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs strongly encourages the Gaston County Board of Education to retire all American Indian mascots, logos, and sports teams nicknames presently being utilized by the school system