JAMESTOWN – After last week’s decision to replace the current mascot and icon of Jamestown High School with a big cat, the school must now look at the logistics of rebranding.
Debate on this topic began in 2014 when the icon was changed from a “Red Raider” to a “J with feathers.” The subject rose to the forefront again in 2020 when members of the Jamestown Justice Coalition spoke out against the “J with feathers,” calling for a complete overhaul of design.
Since then, the high school has worked to eliminate Native American imagery in the schools, including the “J with feathers” logo. Subsequently, Jamestown Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kevin Whitaker, asked the committee to research and recommend a new logo for JHS.
“The Seneca Nation worked with us extremely well,” says Whitaker. “They reached out to us and said they would offer private guided tours through their cultural and historical museum which they provided. Members of the mascot committee took them up on that offer and they did tours and learned quite a bit about the history of the Seneca Nation and where some of that imagery may have come from.”
Ultimately, the committee decided to return to the original JPS imagery from the 1940s of a big red cat, which connects the school back to its roots, as well as the name “Red Raiders.”
“Now what we’ll do is we’ll move forward and we will rebrand. We will launch the new logo, launch the new mascot imagery, and we will rebrand all those places that used to have that other image, we’ll replace it,” explains Whitaker. “So we’re in the process of replacing, over the course of a timeline, uniforms, murals, trophies, posters, stickers, window coverings, things like that.”
The Superintendent explained that the rebranding process will take time, as the cost of replacing both large scale areas like the football field and basketball court as well as smaller scale items like chairs and uniforms will add up quickly.
Whitaker tells us that 60 to 70 percent of students are accepting of the change, while others still remain hesitant.
“One of the things that we were really pleased to hear was that the students on the committee thought it was a really cool idea to modernize an older version of the imagery,” says Whitaker. “And as we have started to roll it out, there’s actually been some interest in the retro version too. So the old 1930s version, you never know, we might be marketing some of those old sweatshirts and things like that, the old design.”
The process of changing the school’s imagery has taught students valuable life lessons, the Superintendent believes. They were shown how to compromise and come to a decision together, whether or not they had differing opinions.
During the rebranding process, students were also offered the opportunity to learn about the Seneca Nation in ways often not described in history textbooks.