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Students work to ban ‘Pioneers’ nickname, says it represents ‘genocide, oppression’

School institutes de facto ban on former mascot

Native American students at the University of Denver are protesting the school’s “Pioneers” nickname, saying it represents “genocide and oppression.”

And starting Jan. 1, the school launched a new policy that forbids the use of masks while on university property, effectively instituting a de facto ban on the institute’s informal Denver Boone mascot.

Angst and protests against the pioneers nickname and Boone mascot date back years, and Boone was retired in 2013 after campus officials deemed him too much of a “polarizing figure” to represent the school. This despite evidence showing students and alumni overwhelmingly wanted to keep Boone.

Although Boone was banned, the pioneers nickname has stuck around in an official capacity, especially within the sports department, prompting activists to continue their fight.

Last fall, the Native Student Alliance began a campaign seeking to change “pioneers” due to its allegedly offensive connotations, according to the school’s newspaper The Clarion.

The term is “associated with westward expansion, genocide, oppression, assimilation of Native American students,” Native Student Alliance co-president Raelene Woody told The Clarion.

“Pioneer does not represent the spirit of the students on this campus,” fellow co-president Ontario Duley added.

A photo campaign run by the group features a series of signs around campus with facts about the United States’ relationship with Native American tribes in Colorado, including one sign which read “The Sand Creek Massacre in 1864 ended with 150+ Cheyenne and Arapaho dead, mostly women, children, and elderly #sandcreekmassacre.”

“With the No More Pios Campaign, #NoMorePios, we’re looking to create this conversation, this discussion, to bring about change, because Pioneer does not represent the spirit of the students on this campus,” Duley said.

Repeated attempts by The College Fix to contact the Native Student Alliance were met with silence.

While campus officials have made no public statement about the pioneer nickname or the campaign to change it, they have taken steps to effectively ban the image of Boone from campus events, as some students and alumni have continued to honor him as the school’s mascot despite his banishment.

Under a new rule, campus officials quietly reversed an earlier decision allowing students to appear as the character.

On January 1 of this year, the university instituted a campus-wide ban on wearing masks “for the safety of all DU community members and guests,” according to the school’s website. The ban includes exceptions for “covering any part of the face for religious reasons; wearing protective equipment while engaged in a sport or responding to an emergency or safety situation; engaging in a theatrical production or similar University sanctioned event; or wearing a mask for protection from weather or medical reasons.”

The original version of the mask policy included potential additional exceptions for those who asked for them: “Individuals may request other exceptions to this policy from the Division of Campus Safety or the Office of Campus Life and Inclusive Excellence.”

Shortly after, the policy description on the university’s website was changed to remove the sentence about requesting exceptions.

According to the independent University of Denver-centric blog LetsGoDU, the change occurred after the university was asked if the exceptions to the policy could be applied to individuals dressed as Denver Boone.

The College Fix reached out to the school’s media relations department for comment on the mask policy.

“The University of Denver is committed to the safety and protection of all community members and visitors on its campus,” an unnamed spokesman replied via email. “In recent years violent attacks have led to the harm and even death of innocent people from children to adults in movie theaters, on campuses and in other easily accessible venues.  The violence was committed in part by individuals who had concealed their faces and identities.”

Asked whether the policy would allow an exception for Boone, the spokesman told The Fix: “While many policies allow for review of exceptions, a policy to protect the safety of community members and guests shall have, appropriately, no exceptions.”

“The University retired Boone under Chancellor Ritchie’s leadership in 1998. Boone does not undergo any background checks or training by the University, nor is it covered under any insurance policy. People could reasonably expect that a character in a mask is approved and sanctioned by the University, when that is not the case.”

Regarding the now-excised exception within the original mask rule, the spokesman told The Fix: “The initial posting included an inaccurate addition suggesting special exemptions might be allowed. The text was corrected before the announcement about the change was sent to faculty/staff, and before the policy went into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.”

The chancellor’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment from The Fix.

The University of Denver was founded in 1864, and first adopted the nickname Pioneers in 1925, according to a document outlining the school’s search for a new mascot in 2013.

After changing mascots several times, an artist from Walt Disney designed a character called “Boone,” based on the Disney character “Pioneer,” which the school adopted in 1968, according to a report in The Denver Post.

Boone remained the Pioneer’s mascot until 1998, when all sports at the university transitioned to NCAA Division I, and the athletic director changed the school’s mascot and logo to the Red Hawk. But the red-tailed hawk named “Ruckus” that replaced Boone never gained enough fans on campus and went extinct around 2007, prompting renewed calls and efforts to bring back Denver Boone.

The “Bring Back Boone” campaign was subsequently organized by students and alumni to raise money for a new Boone costume. After raising the requisite funds, the group obtained the assent of then-Chancellor Robert Coombe to wear the costume in an unofficial capacity in 2008.

But in 2013 — and despite pleas and campaigns by alumni, students and fans — University of Denver officials decided they would rather have no mascot at all than one that represents America’s frontier heritage, and officially axed Boone.

MORE: University Rejects Pioneer ‘Denver Boone’ Mascot As Too Offensive

MORE: Petition to change ‘Warrior’ mascot: ‘white people stole from, raped and murdered’

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About the Author
Andrew Johnson is a first year graduate student studying physics at the University of Denver. He is an avid reader and rock climber who enjoys advancing the cause of liberty in his free time.

Add to the Discussion

  • Dr. Donny

    As an alumnus of DU, I would like to suggest that the university change their nickname to the ‘Wimps’. That describes the administrators and leaders at this over-priced high school. Incidentally, the Sand Creek Massacre was perpetrated by the Colorado militia which was manned by men from Denver. I suggest that DU move out to the eastern plains to cleanse their soul of this association with this evil city. Cheers.

    • T100C1970

      Since they don’t like Pioneers, I vote for “Redskins”

      • Dr. Donny

        Love it!

  • rogerthatokay

    If it weren’t for Whites you’d still be living in teepees and dying at the age of 35 — probably from killing each other.
    The United Nations Human Development Index (HDI) is a composite statistic (composite index) of life expectancy, education, and per capita income indicators. Wikipedia
    -Of the top 51 ranked nations 2 are South American, 4 are Arab, 4 are Asian and 41 are White. No African nation is on the list.

    Encyclopedia Britannica’s partial listing of gifts to mankind by Judao Christian (White) Western Culture:

    Teflon, telegraph, wireless telephone, cell phone, TV, thermometer, thermostat, threshing machine, pneumatic tire, toaster, tractors, transistor, vaccination, vacuum cleaner, typewriter, ultrasound imaging, Velcro, VCR, washing machine, X-ray, Airbags, automobile, airplane, blimps, animation, motion-picture, telephone, telephone answering machine, aspirin, assembly line, Astroturf, audiotape, ATM, Bakelite, periodic table, ball bearing, telephone, bandage, bar code barbed wire, barometer, battery, bicycle, bifocal lens, blow-dryer, atomic bomb, Braille, bra, electronic calculator, camcorder, cans, carbon 14 dating, cardboard, cash register, mail-order catalog, Cellophane, celluloid, chronometer, cloning, DVD, oral contraceptives, cotton gin, coupons, crayons, dairy processing, credit cards, defibrillator, DDT, , dentures, metal detector, smoke alarm, artificial diamonds, disposable diapers, dishwasher, revolving door, dry cleaning, dynamite, elastic fabric, EEG, email, electrocardiogram, , elevator, internal combustion engine, jet engine, rockets, steam engine, escalator, eyeglasses, fax, fiber optics, fiberglass, photos, flashlight, Thermos bottle, food processor, freeze dried foods, Fresnel lens, fuel cell, genetic engineering, Geiger counter, safety glass, electric guitar, wire hanger, helicopter, holography, syringe, IVF, insulin, integrated circuit, internet, iron, food irradiation, Kevlar, Laser, lawn mower, light bulb, LED, linoleum, LCD, locomotive, lock and key, loudspeaker, MRI, margarine, matches, metric system, microphone, electron microscope, microwave oven, glass mirror, guided missile, outboard motor, mobile home, Morse code, electric motor, motorcycle, neon lighting, nuclear reactor, nylon, pacemaker, paper clip, particle accelerator, pasteurization ballpoint pen, pencil, photocopy, pocket watch, polyethylene, Polygraph, PVC, printing press, radar, radio, rayon, electric razor, crop reaper, refrigerator, remote control, revolver, Richter scale, rifle, vulcanized rubber, saccharin, satellite, scotch tape, scuba gear, silicone, skyscrapers, stapler, stainless steel, stereo sound, stethoscope, stock ticker, electric stove, gas stove, submarine, sunglasses, sunscreen, CD, decaffeinated coffee, DVD, CD, CAT scan, personal computer, laptop, reinforced concrete, condom, contact lense, supermarket, music synthesizer, synthetic skin, tampons, tanks, tea bags…and more.

    Not to mention the concepts of equal human rights, a democratic republic…America…
    I’m sick of non-Whites trashing my race and culture. It’s time for us to trash them right back.

    • Agincourt

      “Judao Christian”
      There is no such thing as Talmudic Jesus

      • rogerthatokay

        “Judeo-Christian is a term that groups Judaism and Christianity, either in reference to Christianity’s derivation from Judaism or due to perceived parallels or commonalities shared between those two religions.”


  • james

    The victim culture is incredibly damaging to the American psyche. God forbid the millenial generation ever have to face ACTUAL hardships, I can’t forsee the outcome being particularly good. American values of Hardihood and resiliency have been traded for competing to be the most victimized and oppressed.

  • dggoddard

    As a DU Alumn its important to note that the DU Mask Ban is Campus Wide, not just in sports stadiums & arenas. So any talk about “protecting crowds” is pure bullshit.

    I’m no lawyer, but you have to think that banning masks at a private institution that regularly hosts political debates, political discourse & receives tax abatements from the City of Denver, State of Colorado & the IRS is legally dubious.

    Plus the optics of all this just sucks. Judging by Facebook & social media reaction, thousands agree with me.

  • Juventino Manzano

    My alma mater! How sad they give in to this nitpicking.

  • Generic Avatar

    “Native American students at the University of Denver are protesting the
    school’s “Pioneers” nickname, saying it represents “genocide and
    oppression.” ”

    Henceforth the UoD students, professors, and staff shall be referred to by their new nickname, “Shattered Snowflakes”.

  • JoeSchmuckatelli

    DU students and alumni need to start a campaign against these squaws and savages.

  • Marybeth Cook

    This is ridiculous. Why don’t these students occupy their time in a more traditional manner, like STUDYING???