I reached out to about a dozen of those high schools, and most didn’t want to comment on a controversy that hadn’t yet arrived. But the conversations I did have suggested that the way communities regard their teams’ Native American names and mascots depends on the makeup of the communities themselves.
Estelline High, home of the Redmen, is located in a small town in South Dakota, 24 miles west of the Minnesota border. South Dakota has the third-largest Native American population share in the country, but Estelline hasn’t seen the kinds of protests directed at the Washington Redskins. The town has experienced little, if any, controversy over the Redmen name.
The mascot dates back to sometime between 1915 and 1920, when a local newspaper referred to the Estelline athletic team by the color of its uniforms — “the men in red.” The name wasn’t officially adopted, but the team soon became known by its unofficial moniker, the Redmen. According to Estelline superintendent and high school principal Patrick Kraning, the association with Native Americans didn’t come until around 1930. Estelline followed with its own depiction of a “Redman” as a stereotype of a Native American chief wearing a headdress. Events such as the annual naming of a “Moon Princess” and “Big Chief” at homecoming became part of the tradition.