Rename W​.​H. Harrison High School; Remove 'The Raider' mascot in Greater Lafayette, IN

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The time has come to change the name of William Henry Harrison High School, and end the use of its mascot, The Raiders, in Greater Lafayette, Indiana.

Summary
In the wake of continued reports of police brutality, nationwide protests, and removal of Confederate monuments, many people are doing the important work of evaluating how we as a society tacitly support White supremacy. The William Henry Harrison High School mascot is The Raiders, an homage to White settler colonialism and the history of genocide against Native Americans. The high school’s namesake, William Henry Harrison, was an outspoken White supremacist who upheld slavery, enslaved Black people, and called for the eradication of Indigenous people through military force. As alumni, students, faculty, staff, community members, Hoosiers, and Americans, we can no longer blindly support such values. Especially given the recent documentation of racism in the Tippecanoe School Corporation, it is beyond time that we change the school name and mascot.  

Rationale
America has a long legacy of revisionist history, whereby the respectable achievements of America’s leaders and Founders are highlighted, while their numerous atrocities are repeatedly eliminated or minimized from the history books in order to put them in the best possible light. As filmmaker Ken Burns has recently said, “Our monuments … are representations of myth, not fact, and as we consider what role monuments play in our culture, it’s the history, not the mythology, that we must remember.”[1] This is not just a problem for the former Confederacy, whose monuments still dot our landscape, but a reality of the nearly 500-year legacy of White settler colonialism in the greater Americas that led to the mass genocide of Indigenous people, enslavement of millions of Black people, and the subsequent erasure of many of their cultures. Such revisionist history is particularly symbolized in the names we give to buildings, locations, cities, and so on. When we name things, we are not merely remembering history. Names are symbolic and meaningful. We must, then, carefully evaluate what these names say about who we are and what we value, and if they perpetuate a society still shrouded in White supremacy.

Historical Context
William Henry Harrison High School, a school founded in 1967, is named after the former U.S. President and Governor of the Indiana Territory, who led U.S. soldiers against Indigenous people at the village of Prophetstown during the Battle of Tippecanoe on November 7, 1811.

The school resides on stolen land. West Lafayette, Indiana, was once home to the Kickapoo, Peoria, Potawatomi, and Miami tribes.[2] It was also the land of the Shawnee tribe, famous for the spiritual leader Tenskatawa [“Open Door”; The Prophet], and the great warrior and political leader Tecumseh, who developed a confederation of Indigenous tribes around the Great Lakes region who opposed the continued expansion of White colonialists. At its peak in 1810, Prophetstown was home to more than 3,000 Indigenous people, making it the “largest Indian community ever assembled in the Great Lakes territories.”[3] In the face of encroaching colonialists, they gathered there in order to “preserve their disappearing cultures” and prevent “cultural extinction.” It quickly became an important religious center for Indigenous people from numerous tribes.[4] Leading up to the Battle of Tippecanoe, Tecumseh said in August of 1811 to Harrison:

Brother. Since the peace was made you have kill’d some of the Shawanese, Winebagoes, Delawares and Miamies and you have taken our lands from us and I do not see how we can remain at peace with you if you continue to do so. … You have promised us assistance but I do not see that you have given us any. ... You try to force the red people to do some injury. It is you that is pushing them on to do mischief. You endeavor to make destructions. … You are continually driving the red people when at last you will drive them into the great lake where they can’t either stand or work.[5]

William Henry Harrison's commitments to White supremacy include:

*Instigating Violence and Terrorism. Harrison’s personal correspondence documents an overwhelming preoccupation and paranoia of perceived hostility from Native Americans. For nearly two years leading up to the Battle of Tippecanoe, Harrison wrote incessantly that the Prophet was a threat, despite the fact that the Miami chiefs told Harrison that “no information from any quarter has reached our ears to injure any of your people or ours, except from yourself.”[6] Harrison advocated for war and made plans for attack even though the Secretary of War continually admonished Harrison to maintain peace,[7] and despite the fact that Chief Charley of the Eel River Tribe pleaded, “We pray you not to bloody our ground if you can avoid it.”[8] As a result, in Harrison’s own words, he traveled to Prophetstown to “present the Indians with a great temptation” and antagonize the Prophet to initiate war.[9] This occurred while Harrison knew Tecumseh was traveling south, and was during a time of peace.[10] At Prophetstown, “the Governor … assured them [the Indians] that nothing was farther from his thoughts than to attack them,” yet his men were staking out the best grounds for encampment, noting “that a better spot to resist Indians, was not to be found in the whole country.”[11]

*Perpetuating Racist Stereotypes. Harrison repeatedly used derogatory terms for Native Americans and perpetuated assumed racist biological and cultural stereotypes about Indigenous people. He regularly called Native Americans “savages,” “scoundrels,” and “rascals.”[12] He claimed that Native Americans were insatiably thirsty for war, were perpetually miserable and superstitious, and were intrinsically uncivilized, unstable and fickle.[13]

*Advocating Genocide. Harrison perpetuated the common trope that Native American religion & culture was uncivilized, and that it was only through the forced conversion to Christianity that Europeans could “humanize” Indigenous people and make them capable of morality.[14] Indeed, he depicted violence against Indigenous people as a holy war, describing his militia (Raiders) as displaying “valour which is characteristic of the Christian Soldier.”[15] Quite explicitly, Harrison supported the establishment of the Ohio colonial settlement for the purpose of “the extinguishment of the Indian tribe … to change their mode of life and thereby to render them less warlike and entirely dependent upon us, or to remove to the West side of the Mississippi.”[16]

*Advocating Slavery. Throughout his career, Harrison both enslaved human beings and advocated for the further enslavement of Black people. As Governor of the Indiana territory, he built his political platform on legalizing slavery in Indiana, repeatedly “arguing that slavery was necessary for Indiana’s settlement and economic viability.”[17] Harrison enslaved two people. There are further allegations that Harrison repeatedly raped one enslaved person, a woman named Dilisa. On these allegations, Harrison fathered six children with Dilisa, and the children were later sold to Joseph Poythress, a rich plantation owner in La Grange, Georgia.[18] Harrison, in his own words in 1838, sided with the South, believing that slavery was a states’ rights issue.[19] He opposed the abolitionists in order to garner support from the South during his run for the Presidency: “Harrison was still a southerner when it came to slavery. He consistently opposed any attempt by Congress to restrict the spread of slavery or to curtail the authority of slave masters over their slaves.”[20] He opposed emancipation, specifically voicing opposition against Black people receiving “full participation of political rights with the whites … [and] a full share of social rights also.”[21] In short, he did not believe Black people qualified as human beings.

The Mascot

The school mascot, The Raiders, has undergone various iterations, some of which pay homage to the soldiers who fought under Harrison’s command. Though “raider” was a generic term used for British forces, Native American warriors, and American soldiers, one of the commonly used logos of The Raider by the school specifically patterns the mascot after the military outfit that was worn by William Henry Harrison and his officers,[22] which is also mimicked by the costumes worn by the school’s “Harrison Militia Band.”[23]

At the Battle of Tippecanoe, these Raiders, under direction of Harrison, scalped and destroyed the bodies of 36 deceased Indian soldiers in the battlefield, and then “confiscated everything valuable from the Indian households … and razed the settlement.”[24] Antal summarizes: “Harrison launched numerous search and destroy missions against the Native villages of the region. … His raiders torched homes and destroyed the crops … leaving Native families to face a winter of starvation. … Harrison … generally viewed the Natives as ‘bloodthirsty savages’ who deserved no mercy.”[25] Soldiers dug up graves from the sacred Indian burial grounds and scalped the dead there too.[26] When an American soldier scalped an Indian at the Battle of Tippecanoe, they would divide the scalp among each other, cut a hole through the middle, and hang it on the end of their rifle.[27] In October 1813 at the Battle of Thames, Harrison’s men found a body they believed to be Tecumseh’s and “cut strips of flesh from his back and thighs for souvenirs.”[28]

Resolve
Given these facts, which are not new but are increasingly being brought to light, as signatories of this petition we call on the Tippecanoe County School Board and the leadership of Harrison High School to change the name of the school as well as its mascot. No doubt, William Henry Harrison is connected to the land and history of Tippecanoe County; however, there are certainly many far more respectable people in the county’s history befitting this honor. Or the school could be named after a location, symbol from nature, or ideal that we hold as Americans.

We are not calling for an erasure of history. This is not an act of “cancel culture.” Indeed, the greatest act of erasing and canceling culture occurred in the founding of America that resulted in a mass genocide and epistemicide of the Native American people & of the Africans that were forcibly kidnapped and enslaved. It is estimated that 54 million Native Americans lived in North America at the time of White settler colonialism, and approximately 95% of them were wiped out.[26] The people of Tippecanoe County should learn William Henry Harrison’s White supremacist legacy, a legacy we can no longer defend. It isn’t enough to say, “Harrison was just a product of his time; everyone held those views.” That statement itself privileges White supremacy and the sentiments of wealthy White enslavers. The people he enslaved did not support those values. The Native Americans he killed did not support those values. Even Britain had already ended the slave trade in 1807 and abolished slavery in its entirety in 1833.

We call on the administration, staff, and current students to arrive at a new suitable name and mascot for the school that can reflect the values we aspire to cultivate in ourselves, others, and the world. We can no longer aspire to be Raiders. We can no longer sing a fight song that calls out, “Hail to the Raider Team, the mighty Raider Team, all hail.” Schools across the country are considering name and mascot changes, and have been for years. It is time for us to join together with this movement and cultivate our collective moral understanding to create a more inclusive, compassionate community.

Author:
Dr. Brock Bahler; Lecturer in Religious Studies & Philosophy, University of Pittsburgh; Class of 2000

Co-signatories:

Class of 1974

Lisa Jill Briggs Blitzer; Stay Fit Equine, LLC; Class of 1974


Class of 1985

Julia Scheeres; Author of NYT bestselling memoir ‘Jesus Land’; HHS student 1985


Class of 1994

Christopher Foresman; Software Engineer, PayPal; Class of 1994

Jada Haughey; Co-founder, Greater Lafayette Sewing Masks; Class of 1994; Parent of 2 TSC Students


Class of 1997

Emily Sirota; Colorado District 9 Representative; HHS Alum


Class of 1998

Rev. Phil Hodson; Class of 1998


Class of 1999

Brian Anderson; Co-Founder of Fathering Together; Class of 1999

Dr. Brian McCammack; Historian and Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Lake Forest College; Author of ‘Landscapes of Hope: Nature and the Great Migration in Chicago’; Class of 1999

Emily Carter;  Business Development Consultant; Class of 1999

Everette Mills; Class of 1999

Jenni Chaney; Sales; Class of 1999 

Joseph Monical; Class of 1999

Justin Knoy; Forensic Scientist; Class of 1999

Justin Marquis; Class of 1999

Lauren Murray; Class of 1999

Lyndsey McGuire; Interior Designer; Class of 1999

Mary Margaret McCoy; Class of 1999

Travis Chaney; Chef; Class of 1999


Class of 2000

Alec Toombs; Class of 2000

Dr. Brock Bahler; Lecturer in Religious Studies & Philosophy, University of Pittsburgh; Class of 2000

Dan McDowell; Class of 2000

Dru Alkire; Carpenter; Class of 2000

Emily Veach; Journalist, Patient Advocate; Class of 2000

Eric Percifield; Class of 2000

Grey Stephen Nearing; Assistant Professor, University of Alabama; Class of 2000

Jodi Taylor; Non-Profit Administrator; Class of 2000

Kari Ann Higbee; Class of 2000

Kyra Busch; Class of 2000

Lindsey Kirleis Schotke; Class of 2000

Lizz Giordano; Journalist; Class of 2000

Matthew Goeke; Class of 2000

Megan (Greene) Mills; Class of 2000

Rachel (Miller) Gray; Copy Editor, Journalist & Activist; Co-editor of The Pulse/Class of 2000

 

Class of 2001

Dr. Anna (Schwartz) Thomas; Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics; Attending Neonatologist; Class of 2001

Allison Archer; Teacher; Class of 2001

Andrew Russell; Writer and Actor; Class of 2001

Ben George; Class of 2001

Brian Rayl; Investigator; Class of 2001

Brenden King; Pharmacist; Class of 2001

Cory Hack; Software Engineer; Class of 2001

Damir Dzhafarov; Associate Professor of Mathematics, University of Connecticut; Class of 2001

Ellen M. (Stevenson) Good; English/Speech/Drama Teacher; Class of 2001 

Erin Mitchell; Class of 2001

Harley Rardon; Real Estate Inspector; Class of 2001

Heath Davis; Middle School Science Teacher and Education Consultant; Class of 2001

Jenni McCoy; Class of 2001

John Andrew Sinclair; Class of 2001

Kirstin Eismin-Henry; Advancement Director, Springer School and Center; Class of 2001

Kevin Umlauf; Banking Executive; Class of 2001

Kerstin Neilson James; Senior Hospital Privileges Coordinator; CompHealth Locum Tenens; Class of 2001

Nathaniel Lipp; Television Producer; Class of 2001

Patrick Osburn; US Army Veteran, Combat Medic; Class of 2001

Sarah Olsen; Technology Consultant; Valedictorian Class of 2001

Scott Kelsey; Veteran, Class of 2001

Sheena Mickelson; Social Worker; Class of 2001

Trevor Thompson; Maintenance Worker; Class of 2001

Zehra Fazal; Actor; Class of 2001

Jannica Glover; Technical Specialist; Class of 2001

Zoe Neal; Co-founder co-owner of Virtuous Cycles; Class of 2001

 

Class of 2002

Ben Gilbert; Class of 2002

Rebecca Wood; Real Estate Agent; Class of 2002

Sidney Bolam; Brown County Artist; Class of 2002


Class of 2004

Laelle Busch; Artist; Class of 2004

Mary Monical; Class of 2004


Class of 2006

Ann Fields Monical; Class of 2006

 

 

Hoosier Advocates

Brenda Lipp; Retired Hershey Elementary School Teacher; Parent of 3 HHS Alumni

Brian Kocher; Director at SURJ Greater Lafayette

Carmen Wickware; Director of Development, Younger Womxn's Task Force of Greater Lafayette

Cody Hall; Former HHS Student

Dr. Dan Kelly; Assistant Professor of Philosophy; Purdue University

Dark Rain Thom; Water Panther Clan Mother of the East, of the River Shawnee of Ohio; Co-Author of ‘Warrior Woman’ and ‘The Shawnee: Kohkumthena's Grandchildren’

Elisabeth Garland-Kuntz; Director of Operations & Finance, Younger Womxn's Task Force of Greater Lafayette

Fran Feinberg; Retired Teacher; Mother of HHS Alum

Dr. Gregory E. Ellcessor; Assistant Clinical Professor of Audiology; Ball State University

Ian Andrews; Director at SURJ Greater Lafayette

James Alexander Thom; Historian and Author of 'Panther In The Sky’

Jeremiah (Jay) Eubanks; LGBTQIA Activist and Bloomington Resident

K Byers; Director at SURJ Greater Lafayette

Kathy Busch; Retired HHS Faculty

Kirsten Gibson; Director at SURJ Greater Lafayette

Dr. Leonard Harris; Professor of Philosophy, Purdue University; Author of ‘Philosophy Born of Struggle: Afro-American Philosophy from 1917’; Tippecanoe County Resident

Linda Miller; Retired Indiana State Government Employee; Parent of 2 HHS Alumni

Lyle Janney; Parent of TSC Student

Megan Selby; Health Educator; Former HHS Student

Monica Casanova; Greater Lafayette Resident 

Monica James; Indiana Black Caucus

Nicole McCabe; Director at SURJ Greater Lafayette

Randy Paul; Treasurer, past Co-Chair, Founder of the Monroe County Green Party

Rhonda Stein; Retired Medical Assistant; West Lafayette Resident

Richard Feinberg; Purdue University Professor; Parent of HHS Alum

Slaney Chadwick Ross; English Professor; Former HHS Student

Dr. Steven Lipp; Retired Pediatrician at Clarian/Arnett; Parent of 3 HHS Alumni

Thomas Melville; System Administrator; Member of St. John’s Episcopal Church Lafayette

Tom Stein; Agribusiness Manager; Parent of 3 HHS Alumni, Volunteer

Vanessa S. Pacheco; Director of Policy, Younger Womxn's Task Force of Greater Lafayette

 

National Advocates

Dr. Sol Neely; Heritage University (WA); Citizen of Cherokee Nation

Dr. Gabby Yearwood; Director of Undergraduate Studies, Anthropology Department, University of Pittsburgh

Slaney Chadwick Ross; English Professor; Former HHS Student

Joanne Fang; Clothing Designer; Los Angeles Resident; Wife of HHS Alum

Lynne Gray; Retired U.S. Air Force Veteran

Malcolm X Alonzo; Diné Army Veteran

Maribel Falcon; Mentor with International Indigenous Youth Council

Matthew Gray; Titan Risk Advisor agent; Community Emergency Response Team member

Dr. Michael Owens; Marine Corps Veteran; Candidate for U.S. Congress GA-13; Political Partner, Truman National Security Project

 

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/06/23/ken-burns-our-monuments-are-representations-myth-not-fact/

[2] https://native-land.ca
[3] Timothy D. Willig, “Prophetstown on the Wabash: The Native Spiritual Defense of the Old Northwest.” Michigan Historical Review. 23, no. 2 (March 1997), 115.
[4] Willig, 129-30.
[5] Esarey, ed., Messages and Letters Messages and letters of William Henry Harrison, Vol. 1, 463-67. https://archive.org/details/messagesletterso01harr/page/28/mode/2up?q=Indian
[6] Esarey, 577-78.
[7] Esarey, 483.
[8] Esarey, 581.
[9] Esarey, 571.
[10] Willig, 152; Esarey, 611.
[11] Esarey, 611.
[12] Esarey, 28, 261, 383, 389-90, 422, 471, 507, 625.
[13] Esarey, 383, 451, 471.
[14] Esarey, 383.
[15] Esarey, 625.
[16] Esarey, 450.
[17] Hosler, “Slavery before Statehood.” https://indianapublicmedia.org/momentofindianahistory/slavery-statehood/ See also “Slavery in Indiana Territory” https://www.in.gov/history/2492.htm
[18] Kenneth Robert Janken, Walter White: Mr. NAACP, 3.
[19] http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm?smtID=3&psid=347
[20] Freehling, “William Harrison: Life in Brief.” https://millercenter.org/president/harrison/life-in-brief
[21] Stoner, Campaign Crossroads: Presidential Politics in Indiana from Lincoln to Obama, 16.
[22] Compare the Raider logo (see https://scorestream.com/team/harrison-high-school-raiders-242994 with the images of Harrison and his militia (see https://www.britannica.com/event/Battle-of-Tippecanoe Other school logos of the “Raider” have been patterned after the NFL football team.
[23] See https://hhs.tsc.k12.in.us/arts/harrison-bands and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9QmDAHzk58 and compare with this image of Harrison (https://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-general-william-henry-harrison-staff-on-horseback-october-5-1813-battle-175939364.html
[24] Langguth, Union 1812: The Americans Who Fought the Second War of Independence, 169.
[25] Sandy Antal, A Wampun Denied: Proctor’s War of 1812, 131-32.
[26] Esarey, 630.
[27] “Isaac Naylor and Shabonoee: Eyewitness Accounts of the Battle of Tippecanoe,” in Tucker, ed., The Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Early American Republic, 960.
[28] Langguth, Union 1812, 270.
[29] https://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/devastating-new-evidence-of-how-early-native-americans-were-brought-to-extinction-by-europeans