CEDAR CITY — After the “Redmen” water tank atop Leigh Hill in Cedar City received a fresh coat of paint recently, dozens of supporters gathered at the site to celebrate the occasion.
Approximately 60 people were in attendance for the hourlong potluck get-together at a blocked-off section of Ridge Road the evening of Oct. 7, during which a handful of speakers talked briefly and two Native American children performed a traditional dance.
Cedar City Councilman Paul Cozzens, who spearheaded the efforts to keep the now-retired emblem of Cedar High School on the side of the city-owned tank, thanked those in attendance for their support.
“We have many to thank for the results of this painting of the water tank,” he said. “The Cedar City Council, by resolution, passed this to be a historical marker to stand through time.”
The contentious issue has been debated at length over the past year, with the Iron County School District Board of Education ultimately voting 3-2 in February to “respectfully retire” the Redmen name and mascot. Starting with the current school year, Cedar High now uses Reds instead.
Cozzens said he pushed to keep the former emblem on the tank to “honor a proud and tradition and history for 77 years.”
Although the tank was first painted by a group of CHS students in the early 1970s, it was professionally painted this time using private donations made to a 501(c)(3) nonprofit entity set up by Cozzens, he said.
“We’re trying to raise enough money to keep painting it about every 10 years,” Cozzens explained. “That’s what we agreed to in the resolution.”
The only noticeable difference in the newly repainted tank’s appearance, other than the new paint more closely matching the high school’s official maroon-and-gold colors, is the addition of the dates 1942-2019, indicating the span of time that Redmen served as the school’s emblem.
Cozzens said he hoped the efforts to recognize the Redmen name would help bring the community together.
“We have designated the dates of 1942-2019 so that it shows a special period of time in Cedar City that honors our Native American community and how it has linked us together as a community,” Cozzens said, noting that the addition of the dates would also help avoid potential confusion among current and future CHS students, along with visitors and others who may not be fully aware of the recent mascot change.
“I think there’s a real disease in our country and it’s called politically correct practice, and it’s destroying history,” Cozzens told those in the audience. “We can see that one school at a time is being destroyed a bit historically. And so I hope this stands the test of time and we can be proud of that, and in our heritage, our Indian cultures.”
Two of the speakers that talked briefly after Cozzens were Native American alumni of Cedar High, Cason Deschine and Taniah Henrie.
“Thank you for including us and not forgetting us,” Deschine said, adding that he does not find the terms “Redmen” and “Redskins” offensive.
“I’m a Redman and I’ll always be a Redman,” he said. “And hopefully in the future, my siblings can call themselves Redmen too, and be proud to be a Redman.”
Henrie, who is an assistant softball coach at Cedar High, said she felt the push to change the school’s mascot was a way of “sweeping Native Americans under the rug.”
Henrie talked of how the issue would come up in athletic meetings over the past few years.
“I feel like every time I go into a coaches meeting, you know, I’m telling them, ‘Who? Who’s saying these things?’” she said. “Who’s telling you guys that this is how it is? Have you asked people? Have you done a survey? Have you found a real reason to change this name? And, nope. Nobody could give me any answers.”
Henrie said she’s grateful that the Redmen emblem will remain on the tank as a reminder.
“I do feel that it is a representation of not only Cedar City Native Americans, but any Native American that comes into town,” she said. “And when they see that, they know that it’s never used derogatory or in a hurtful way, that it is always used honorably and that we have so much respect for it, that we see it as a symbol of pride.”
Tom Milner, a CHS graduate whose idea it was to paint the tank the first time, spoke about the history behind the Redmen name. He said to him, it conveyed the meaning of “honorable people.”
Another speaker, Lisa Davis, spoke of how Native American names like Apache, Black Hawk and Tomahawk have been used by the U.S. military “in honor and respect.”
“This water tank will stand as remembrance of the revered and honored name, which at one time was the secret weapon of Cedar High School and can and should be again,” Davis said.
Cozzens also took time to thank those directly involved with the repainting project.
“Reber Painting did a wonderful job. They took the rust and the loose paint off and did a fantastic job,” Cozzens said, adding that Ahern Rentals donated the use of the lift and Sherwin Williams provided a 50% discount on the “substantial” amount of paint that was needed to cover the 18,000 square foot tank.
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