Tribe Supports School That Wants To Keep ‘Red Raiders’ Nickname

As schools across the nation drop Native mascots, one school has the support of a local tribe to keep their red raiders nickname.

By Rick Gonzales | Published

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red raiders

Washington’s NFL team has done it with the “Redskins” and MLB’s Cleveland has done it with the “Indians.” Plenty of other sports teams (professional and collegiate) as well as school districts across the country have followed suit by removing harmful Native American names or images. For one high school in Connecticut, their Red Raiders mascot may not have to go away anytime soon as a small American Indian tribe has supported the name.

Derby High School’s nickname of the Red Raiders and logos that include an arrowhead along with the profile of the head of an American Indian was under fire based on the state law passed last year that required any entity’s athletic teams using Native American names, likeness, or mascots to gain written support from a state or federally recognized tribe within the state or risk losing funds. At stake are the state grant monies that schools received that come from the revenue from The Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino, the two state-tribal casinos.

Written support for the high school to continue using the Red Raiders nickname and logos came from a small Indian tribe located in Western Connecticut. The Schaghticoke Tribal Nation has a little over 100 members but voiced their support in a resolution from the Schaghticoke tribal council. In their support, the tribal council said the school should use the images “as a public means of sustaining Native American culture and history of Connecticut’s first citizens.”

To gain their support, Derby Board of Education Chair Jim Gildea said he, along with city officials, met with tribal leaders to discuss the Red Raiders issue. He said officials explained to tribal leaders, including Schaghticoke Chief Richard Velky, that the images the high school uses are meant to honor Native American heritage and also said that the “Red Raiders” name has nothing to do with skin color.

“It’s similar to the Duke Blue Devils, the Tulane Green Wave,” Gildea said via AP News. “Through the years, people may have lost sight of that, but Derby High School’s colors are red and white.” But Gildea also explained they worked diligently with the tribal council to ensure that the mascot and Red Raiders name usage were respectful.

“We worked closely with the Schaghticoke Tribe to ensure that the manner in which we used our name and mascot was respectful and honored their heritage, tradition, and history,” Gildea said to ctpost. Gildea did confirm that the Schaghticoke do not contribute to the state grant funds, but that shouldn’t be a factor in the tribe okaying the use of the Red Raiders name and logo.

“We should not cherry pick which Native American, state-recognized tribe we decide to give the ability to grant waivers to,” he said. “They are all honorable, decent tribes who are state recognized and that should be the only litmus test.” The Red Raiders sure appreciate the Schaghticoke’s efforts.

Most of the cities and towns in the state the Red Raiders call home get a grant from the Mashantucket Pequot/Mohegan Fund. Any community that is located near the casinos gets extra funds. The money the cities and towns get is based on factors that include the value of untaxable properties located within a community. The cities and towns receive three payments a year and, for some of the larger cities, they can see payments of up to $5 million annually.

Based on its size and location, Derby is set to receive $207,304 for the fiscal year 2023. While that might not seem like a bundle, it is a fund the school district nor the Red Raiders wish to lose. Gildea says that even though there is no quid pro quo with the Schaghticoke Tribe, he did say that the Derby School District has agreed to work with the tribe on Native American educational programs. The tribe is based in Kent, CT, which is about 50 miles from Derby, though the tribe does have offices in Derby.