Eaton Red Ink hosts vital forum to create dialogue


Red Ink members stand next to the mascot (left to right, Karalee Kothe(16), Sarah Jakel (17), Isaiah Cordova (17), Devan McKenney (17), and Cameron Moser (17)

CJ Blaskowski

By CJ Blaskowski

14 April 2016

Community members, students and district employees conducted a great civil dialogue at the Red Ink’s public forum to discuss the Eaton mascot on Thursday, March 10 . The forum in the Eaton High School auditorium included Eaton community members, the Red Ink staff, alumni, teachers, school board members and 15 members of the Governor’s Commission to Study American Indian Representation in Public Schools (CSAIRPS). Other figures in attendance were mayor Scott Moser, soon-to-be mayor, Kevin Ross, and former Colorado State Senator Scott Renfroe.

Nearly 125 people filled the auditorium to listen to commission co-chair, Darius Smith share his history with the Eaton mascot. Smith told audience members he was in Eaton 14 years ago to join other Native Americans to protest at graduation in 2002. A former track star and graduate of Montbello High School, Smith said he has changed since 2002. “In 2002,” Smith said, “we marched to make people embarrassed.” Now, he said, it’s about education and dialogue. “Imagery can be a powerful thing, especially with a cartoon,” Smith said. Since that graduation protest, he has taken part in both the Montbello mascot transition and presenting the national mascot issue to the Colorado High School Athletic Associaton. He gave a similar presentation to the Eaton audience, followed by social studies teacher, Chad Shaw, who educated the audience on the history of Eaton’s mascot. Shaw pointed out that the official mascot was first dawn up by two teachers in 1963 with no directions from the district. The mascot has remained since then. 

Over 20 different people took the microphone to make comments. Among students speakers, a common theme arose: If the mascot is offensive, let’s change it. Not all community members agreed, however. Stan Snow, a veteran, soccer coach and parent of Eaton graduates said he believes the mascot is a thing of pride, and several other in attendance agreed. Alumn, Becky Lawhead, said she was proud to wear the Eaton mascot as a student and still is as a district employee. None of the speakers in favor of the mascot believed it was intentionally meant to offend, but rather to honor. 

Newly elected Mayor, Kevin Ross, was in attendance the night of the form. Ross, an Eaton graduate, said, “This was a complete 180 turnaround from 14 years ago.” A whole melting pot of views were portrayed at the forum and no two opinions were completely identical.” Ross said he wished more students would have been in attendance. “It [the forum] was able to bring out the other side… it was good to learn and have that dialogue.” Ross said summing up the essence of the forum. Most community members echoed his sentiments, saying that the dialogue was good to have in a community that has dodged two separate proposed legislative bills to change the mascot. Both last year’s bill and another in 2012 died in session. 

The final commission report will be given to Governor Hickenlooper on Mon. April, 18 at 11:30 a.m. at the State Capitol. The Commission has gathered notes on the schools it has visited and the members will present the Governor with recommendations concerning Colorado high schools and the use of Native American mascots.  As a member of the Governor’s commission, Eaton High School’s English Department chair, Deirdre Jones, will be in attendance.