Group launches campaign to change name of high school Native American mascot

BELMONT, N.C. — South Point High School in Belmont has been under fire for the name of its mascot.

Many said Red Raiders is an offensive name and there are calls to have it removed.

Indigenous people who live in the area, including members of the Lumbee Tribe, are pushing to have the name and logo changed.

“When I see the red handprints, I directly see missing and murdered indigenous women,” said Hayley Brezeale, who is with the group Retire the Red Raider.

“There is so much evidence that shows mascots are psychologically demeaning. They are actually harmful to our youth,” she said.

The group launched an information campaign.

Brezeale will be part of a panel Monday night in a virtual discussion on the issue.

There remains strong opposition to any plan that would change the name.

“I do not feel it is racist,” said a resident in Cherokee.

Gaston County graduate Isabella Lanford said over the summer that she was so offended that she transferred out of South Point.

In July, she said it was difficult to be at the school knowing so many are fighting to keep the Red Raiders name.

"You don't have to look at that mascot every day and understand that that's how other people perceive your culture," Lanford said.

She is a registered member of the Lumbee Tribe.

Lanford said going to a game at the school where football is a big deal was unbearable.

“I remember going to football games and seeing people I was friends with put on face paint and make what they thought were native sounds of war cry,” Lanford said. “It was very disturbing.”

She transferred and graduated this year from Highland School of Technology and now she wants the South Point mascot replaced.

[Washington’s NFL team drops ‘Redskins’ name after 87 years]

The Metrolina Native American Association agrees.

“We see what America thinks we are, savage, a people of before, forever fixed in the past,” Chair Rebecca Jones LeClaire said. “It’s keeping a stereotype alive that Native Americans don’t exists and that we are characters and mythical figures.”

However, school alumni rallied to keep things the way they are.

Some spoke briefly when opponents went to the school board asking them to change the mascot.

“I have been a die-hard Red Raider for 64 years,” on supporter said. “We regret having to be here to defend our team’s name and logo.”

"I think everybody here knows how the majority of Belmont feels"

But school officials say they have no plans to tackle the issue.

Officials said it’s up to the community to change the name.

Lanford said the board should take a moral stand.

"There are standards they want to uphold that racism isn't something they should tolerate anymore," she said.

LeClaire said if the NFL can make the Washington Redskins change their name and logo then the Gaston County School Board can address the Red Raiders issue.