CAMANCHE, Iowa — The Camanche School District officially changed their controversial mascot during Friday's Camanche Days celebration.
Back in March, the district's school board voted (5-1) to change their "Indian" mascot, following pushback from across the state. The move was made official on Friday, August 6, during a ceremony featuring past, present and future students and alumni.
Now, the Camanche School District is represented as the Storm.
"It's bittersweet," said Brenda Larkey, Co-Chair of the mascot retirement event. "We always felt like we were honoring our Indian. We always felt like we were respecting him in every way, shape or form. But then we find out that there are people offended by it. We had to change it."
The ceremony welcomed alumni representatives from what organizers estimated was every graduating class at Camanche. The district has had the mascot since 1961. Larkey says she didn't want that history to simply be 'gone,' so she came up with the mascot replacement ceremony.
As generations of alumni gathered on the high school's track, a banner featuring the Indian logo was taken around in a lap, then rolled up and retired.
"When the Indian banner is rolled up tonight, the Indian will be no more," said Larkey.
Then, a new banner was unfurled, displaying the new Storm picture.
"Be proud of that Indian but also be open to change for the future. That’s how I’d like to move forward with this," said Larkey.
Among the guests and alumni in attendance was Stacey Pearson-Reppert, another Co-Chair and an Instructional Coach at Camanche's middle school. Her dad, who served as principal when Camanche opened in '61, was also at the event. Seeing so many old friends and teachers return for the evening made Pearson-Reppert more emotional than she anticipated.
"It's like a retirement of a good friend," she said. "I grew up walking in the halls here. So it's kind of bittersweet, I should say. But I think moving forward, it's gonna be awesome."
Pearson-Reppert says in a small town like Camanche, the high school is a focal point to the community, and a place of pride for generations that have lived there.
"Our town is small enough where our school is part of our community. It's a big part of our community," she said. "And sometimes people are like why are we getting rid of the mascot. It's hard - changing, and evolving. But I think we're moving forward and really progressing into something that's gonna be special."
She says as time goes on, new classes will start to move on with the new moniker, and claim it as their own.
"A lot of emotions right now," Pearson-Reppert laughed, as she teared up a bit. "Right now I just feel really proud of our town and where we're going. We have a lot of people here representing our past and yet we're excited for our future. So, you know, if I anything to say, I'm just really proud of Camanche right now."
High school junior, Brooke Paasch, will be one of the first students to graduate with the new mascot. She says while her entire family graduated with the old logo, she's excited for the opportunity that being the Storm will bring.
"I'm gonna have individuality and uniqueness that they didn't really have," she said. "There's a lot of new opportunities to just really make the best out of it and really just make what we can out of everything that's changing."
Paasch says while many students were disappointed with the change initially, they were told to 'champion change,' and look at why the switch was necessary. Paasch herself shouted out some of her friends, who challenged her to look at why the old mascot wasn't the best fit for the district.
"My friend Emily Murphy really brought up some things that really blew my mind. Our school is predominantly Caucasian, and 'Indians' is a Native American thing," she said. "So just not having that Native American aspect didn't really make sense to be an Indian."
Instead, Paasch says the new Storm mascot is a chance for students to claim a logo that's more reflective of who they are as a school.
"Make it more us right now," she said.
The Storm mascot was chosen after middle school students were asked to send in options for a new logo. One student referenced 2020's derecho, and how the community came together to help one another afterward. The mascot committee said it also referenced the 1860 Camanche tornado, and was a teaching opportunity for students.