Warroad Warriors battling to keep school mascot

Warroad supporters believe they deserve an exemption from new Minnesota law
Published: Aug. 25, 2023 at 7:40 PM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) -

Warroad High School has one of the most prestigious hockey traditions in the country. However, their “Warrior” logo and nickname could soon be going away.

As of July 1st of 2023, the state is now requiring school districts with Native American names or mascots to end their use, unless they obtain an exemption. To do that, the school must receive approval from all eleven of the Federally recognized Tribes in Minnesota and the Native American Education Committee. Starting September 1st of 2025, any public school whose request for an exemption has been denied, will have to adopt a new moniker.

“It’s honestly part of our identity and I just think it’s sad that some people are trying to take it away and I don’t think those people fully understand what they’re doing,” says Mo Hardwick.

She says since she was born and raised in Warroad, the same place her dad and her grand-dad grew up, it will always have a special place in her heart. That includes having graduated high school as a Warroad Warrior.

“If you grew up there and you’re part of that community, Warroad takes just such a sense of pride in that history and in that heritage, it’s part of who we are, it’s part of our toughness,” says Hardwick.

National Hockey League player and Washington Capitals forward TJ Oshie, has also been vocal in his defense of the Warrior name, which he represented when he got his start in the sport. In a statement on social media he says he hopes the Warriors will be allowed to “continue celebrating the American Indian culture in Warroad.”

“It’s an honor to wear that Warrior head with pride,” says Hardwick.

She adds, “They have the full support of the Ojibwe Tribe locally, those elders are going to be crushed if they don’t get to use it anymore.”

Some schools in Minnesota, like the Esko Eskomos and the Sleepy Eye Indians will not be seeking exemption.

“I would encourage and invite them to go up to Warroad and spend some time there, and spend some time in the community and the school,” says Hardwick.

Many National Native American Organizations, such as the grassroots ‘Not your Mascot’ movement, say the use of Native Americans as logos and mascots dehumanizes Indigenous people by using harmful stereotypes and even racial slurs.

However, many Warroad supporters believe their case is different, because their name and logo was crafted along with members of the local Native community as a way of honoring their heritage.