By DAVID VANTRESS
THE GOSHEN NEWS
Part 2 of a 2-part series
GOSHEN — While some area schools with Native American-related nicknames have continued along with those nicknames, one Goshen school decided to change its nickname more than 20 years ago.
It was in October 1991 when Bethany Christian senior Isaac Wengerd wrote an article for the school newspaper, The Reflector, raising the possibility of changing the school’s nickname — which at the time was the Braves.
From there, things moved quickly.
According to a Bethany Christian history book commemorating the school’s 50th anniversary, the Bethany school board set up a committee to study the issue in January 1992, and a report was made to the board in May of that year.
At the beginning of the 1992-93 school year, school officials had a chapel presentation, and later three new mascot proposals were brought forward: the Blazers/Trailblazers; the Bruins; and the Royals.
A student body vote picked “Bruins.”
Bethany Christian communications coordinator Kevin Miller joined the school about a year after the change was made and said the transition seemed to come seamlessly.
“It’s worked out well over the years,” Miller said. “The idea came up, it was embraced, the community got behind it, and it happened.”
Change becomes common
A gradual shift from Native American-related nicknames has been taking place over the past four decades. Nickname changes have become pretty common, even on a national level.
The University of Miami (Ohio), officially adopted the Redskins nickname back in the early 1930s after a student several years prior referred to one of the university’s teams as “the Big Red-Skinned Warriors.” Under some pressure, university officials changed the school’s nickname to the RedHawks in 1997.
Three years earlier, Marquette University in Milwaukee changed its nickname from the Warriors to the Golden Eagles. Marquette won an NCAA national men’s basketball championship in 1977 as the Warriors.
The Eastern Washington Savages became the Eagles in 1973. Indiana University of Pennsylvania changed from the Indians to the Crimson Hawks in 2007. Teams from St. John’s University in New York City were known as the Redmen until becoming the Red Storm in 1995.
The NCAA, which governs collegiate athletics, adopted a policy in 2005 that bans the use of Native American mascots by sports teams during tournaments. The policy did make an exception for teams that have the consent of local Native American tribes.
Still, it’s “Redskins,” that seems to draw the most ire.
According to a article published last month by the Capital News Service, there are 62 different schools in 22 states that currently use the Redskin nickname. Four of those — Goshen, Knox, Fort Wayne North Side and Indianapolis Emmerich Manual — are in Indiana.
The CNS report also stated that 28 high schools in 18 states have dropped the Redskins mascot throughout the past 25 years.
One longtime Bethany coach/teacher, said it came down to a simple matter of cultural sensitivity.
Dan Bodiker has worked at Bethany for more than 50 years in a variety of roles. These days, he’s an assistant basketball coach and also handles driver education for the school.
Bodiker remembers well the push to change the school’s nickname — especially how easily and quickly the Bethany community coalesced around the idea after it came forward.
“It wasn’t offensive to me,” Bodiker said.
But a visit to Goshen College by a Bureau of Indian Affairs official got folks thinking, Bodiker said.
The name “Braves,” that official said, wasn’t considered as offensive as some other nicknames; ”Redskins” being one that was mentioned.
But, the official added, the name “Braves” could still be offensive to some.
In the end, Bodiker said, that was the idea that carried the day.
“If it’s offensive to someone,” Bodiker said, “then why not change it?”