Will Cedar High bring back the controversial ‘Redman’ name? Here’s what the new school board wants.

Five years ago the district abandoned the mascot, seen then as a racist slur. Now, despite tribal opposition, some want it restored.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The mascot "Redmen" at Cedar High School in Cedar City in 2019, before the name was removed.

Five years after the Iron County School Board abandoned Cedar High School’s “Redmen” mascot, believing it to be racist and creating a deep divide in the community, new school board members are reopening the issue and want to let voters decide.

Despite objections from representatives of the Paiute tribe, on Tuesday, the school board — which has turned over since the name was changed to the Reds in 2019 — voted 6-1 to put a measure on the ballot in November at the latest to give voters in the southern Utah county the option of restoring the Redmen name to the school.

That action, though, hinges on whether the board can actually put the question on the ballot. A spokesperson for the district said the board is consulting with its legal team and doesn’t know yet if it has the authority to add the measure to the ballot.

Nonetheless, for new board members like Jeff Corry, who campaigned on the issue, it is time to resore the school’s mascot.

“I simply can’t say enough that it’s a name of respect, OK? Definitely not a name of disparagement but a name of respect,” said Corry, who knocked on several doors of Paiute members recently asking if they wanted the old name back and nine out of 12 did.

Leaders of the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah saw the issue differently.

“The term ‘Redman’ is a term not recognized within Native American communities as paying respect to the history and legacy of this nation’s first people,” said Tamra Borchardt-Slayton, chairperson of the tribal council, reading a letter from tribal leaders, “but rather a slang term that has been used for over 200 years to attribute racial defamation to Native people.”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The mascot "Redmen" on a water tank in Cedar City in 2019. The painted image of a Native American and the name "Redmen" remained despite a decision to change the high-school mascot that inspired it.

Autumn Gillard, the cultural resource manager for the Paiute tribe, said the term, along with “redskin” came from “our skin color and the cruel torture of skinning Native Americans in the 1800s for bounties.”

But the mostly white Iron County residents who attended the meeting this week insisted the term is not demeaning.

“I would like to tell you all that that is not what people that are so passionate in this community feel about that name,” said Tyrel Eddy. “It’s not about a racial slur or any other thing. It is a badge of honor that they wear.”

Iron County Commissioner Paul Cozzens read a letter from the commission that said the decision to change the name “disregarded community sentiment” and capitulated to the “prevailing trend of cancel culture fueled by divisive critical theories.”

Jacob Dean Christiansen called the decision to change the name “tyrannical,” was funded by eastern “political agendas” and the new name — the Reds — represents communism.

A vote to change the name back to Redmen failed on a 3-4 vote and, ultimately, the members opted to put the issue before voters.

Board member Stephanie Hill advocated for changing the name — although the mascot would remain a wolf — and said that the community felt “completely defrauded” by the 2019 decision to change the name.

In 2019, a committee of students, staff and alumni formed to debate the issue voted 17-7 in favor of the change because of the racial baggage.

Hill was incredulous that the board would push off the issue to voters.

“I’ve never seen a board function like that,” she said. “We are elected. This is a representative government, and it has been given to us to approach our constituents or field their concerns. … This has been an ongoing topic for six years. I have a solid understanding of what my district wants to see me do.”

Thalia Guerrero — whose Indigenous name is Little Star — pushed to change the name five years ago and said she received death threats when she was 17 years old and said that she shouldn’t have to be back before the board.

“This is insane and it’s really disrespectful to hear people say they’re honoring my people,” she said. “I am enraged and it’s really hard to stand here and listen to these people talk about my culture when they have no idea what our culture is. We have language. We have soul in the earth. They don’t know who we are as a people.”