After years of consideration, Medicine Hat High School has retired the names for its girls and boys sports teams.
The names ‘Mohawks’ and ‘Kwahommies’ will no longer be used by the school, and it does not have a new name picked out yet for either team.
Principal Boris Grisonich made the announcement Thursday morning in the school’s gym, saying this was years in the making.
“After a few years of conversation with our staff and what’s going on in the world, lately the world hasn’t been a real great place, we felt we needed to have more serious talks about our name,” he said. “We don’t believe that 50 years ago we got permission to use that name.
“After a little bit of talking it was decided to use a new name. What we tell our kids it means to be a Mohawk is through our eyes, not theirs. We didn’t think that was fair.”
Grisonich says the coaching staff is on board with the name change.
“It’s time to move on and pick something we think still builds on our past,” he said. “Our staff is good and our coaching staff is strong about the idea.”
Grisonich says staff had conversations with Indigenous groups while discussing a change.
“We have friends who are Aboriginal – we’ve talked to a member of the Mohawk people and a member of the Blackfoot people,” he said. “They were honoured that we would use an Aboriginal name, but they could see both sides.
“I guess the tipping point for us is when we learned that the Mohawk name was given to them by Europeans and not by themselves. Not knowing the background of the name, we felt it was time.”
Grisonich confirmed that no new name has been picked and that no timetable has been set to pick one.
“We want a name that is really going to scream at us that this still honours our past and builds toward our future,” he said. “For this year we’re going to be known only as Hat High and we’re going to continue using our ‘M’ logo.”
Grisonich added that the team just bought new jerseys and is not in a position to buy a new set for every team.
“We do have between $50-100,000 of uniforms and logos – we aren’t in a position where we can just change,” he said. “Most of our teams have moved toward the ‘M.’
“Our football uniforms are great uniforms and are in tremendous shape – we’re going to keep using those uniforms.”
A number of other sports teams around North America have removed Indigenous logos from their teams, like the Edmonton Eskimos and the Washington Redskins. Grisonich says those didn’t impact the school’s decision.
“The truth is, we’ve been talking about this before that happened,” he said. “We don’t feel like we’re in the same category as those teams because they have a slang for a name – ours wasn’t.
“We felt we were representing the name very well and treated it with respect and dignity. We just felt it was time to move on.”
The principal added that the school will look into getting signage that gives a history of the teams’ past logos and information on their new logos.
Mo Cranker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News