We were the Redskins. I was a senior at Goshen High School when the decision to change the mascot happened. My senior t-shirt actually had a picture of a Native American on the back with the words ‘The End of a Legend’ under it. I remember there were polls sent around the school for about a week straight to help come up with a new mascot.
Many of them were terrible, but some stuck out. We may become the Goshen Griffins, Goshen Knights, Goshen RedHawks, yet many students struggled to pick a new name when they had always thought of Goshen High School as the ‘Home of the Redskins.’
Reading up on newspaper articles and watching the station at six in the morning, you saw the debate nearly every day- the debate about our unified identity. Many people were claiming that by still using the term ‘Redskin’ Goshen was perpetuating subtle racism. Many newspapers wouldn’t even publish Goshen’s games and reviews because of the connotations behind the word.
Principle Barry Younghans had spoken out about the mascot change, saying:
“I think early on it was a little hurtful, when they were trying to figure out if they were actually going to change the mascot…but then I also think we worked really hard at saying this is part of the change process.”
Even he had to mention that, at first, the idea of changing who we were was a difficult decision.
For a while, we were giving up a name perpetuating racism, but we were also giving up an identity. However, we were also reminded that a changing identity doesn’t mean a weak one. Younghans then mentioned:
“There’s a special kind of pride, I think, in being able to be the last class to wear the Redskin, and the first class to wear the RedHawk.”
It was a very touchy subject for many people, and eventually the final poll opinions were split ‘five to zero,’ and Goshen High School became ‘Home of the RedHawks.’ I heard a lot of talk my last year at Goshen High School; many were happy with the change and many were not.
I remember being filled with a sense of confusion and sadness when they finally took down the wooden Native American figure in the gym- a removal of an identity. He once stared down at pep rallys, watching as the guy who dressed up as the mascot ran around with a sign that said ‘Go Big Red’ on it. The event was marked with racist undertones, but not many people thought about those. After all, we were the Redskins.
Looking back on it now, I have to admit it was probably for the best to change. Whether it was realized by the students and staff or not, getting rid of racism is always the right choice.
I’ve asked my younger siblings how they feel about it, given that one is in high school and one is in middle school. Neither one of them really cared much about it.
They both did mention once that they thought the change shouldn’t have happened because Goshen had been Redskins for nearly 90 years, but they both understood why it did.
After the change, newspapers all over the state, even large news stations like CNN, took up the story. It was talked about for a while afterwards, in the school and the community. I think it was to make sure the student body was getting into the RedHawk ‘spirit.’ And though the change brought about some controversy, nobody really talks about it now.
The sports teams had adjusted from tomahawks to wings. We dealt with a couple other changes to school equipment and statues. Yet nothing else in the world of Goshen High School was really different.
Maybe the Goshen High School identity isn’t as defined by the Redskin as I thought.