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Elko High Alum Reflects On The Mascot Of Her Former School: The Indians

In June, Nevada passed a law that prohibits schools from using a mascot that features racially discriminatory identifiers — unless the school has permission from the specific group. Part of the legislation has brought attention to Elko High School’s mascot: the Indians. It remains unclear if the school will need to change it.

Lindsey Oppenhein is a member of the Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone and an alumna of Elko High School, and she started a petition to change the school’s mascot. She reflects on her time at the high school and shares why she thinks the mascot should change.


Female high school cheerleader stands in front of her school.
Photo provided by Lindsey Oppenhein
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We’ve been the Elko High School Indians for a really long time. I remember being a freshman, and I was trying out for cheerleading, and some of the cheers that we would do, they, kind of, would just take me back a little bit, you know, hearing your race being chanted like that. And I actually remember asking my cheerleading coach if we could change one of the cheers we did. We would go, “one, two, go EHS Indians,” and we would go, “ah, ah, ah,” with our hands over our mouth making that motion. And that was something that I kind of refused to do. I was like, that’s really messed up. I don’t like that.

I don’t think the kids of Elko High School wake up every day to be mean or to be racist to Native Americans in our community. I don’t think that at all. But I do think just having a Native American as a mascot has real consequences.

A lot of our community members went to Stewart Indian boarding school; the goal there was to kill the Indian and save the man. But I know my grandma, she would, she taught her older kids how to speak Shoshone, and by the time she got to her younger kids, not so much because she did not want them to have a setback in life. She wanted them to be able to have, you know, no accent. Just to be able to learn the language, English, and to thrive in this new world that we had. And so a lot of people, we have lost that cultural gap. And now we’re slowly starting to bring it back.

There’s always been people in the past who have been trying to keep our cultures alive, but I think now that we’re in a day and age where we need to start preserving our culture because we are getting to the point where it’s getting scared of losing some of our language and losing some of our cultural practices. Now we don’t really have a choice; we have to start preserving things.

And so it’s kind of left up to the younger people that are still here and that are getting older, and we’re getting educated, and hopefully, we can start helping our older generation realize what happened to them and know that that wasn’t okay. And we can start just healing from generational trauma as a community.


Transcript

KUNR Morning Edition host Noah Glick checked in with reporter Isaac Hoops on Aug. 12, 2021, to learn more about Nevada’s Assembly Bill 88, which inspired Lindsey Oppenhein to create the petition. Oppenhein also shared her thoughts about the mascot.

A downloadable version of this transcript can be found here.

This story was produced by Isaac Hoops, who is a senior studying at the Reynolds School of Journalism

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