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North Bay high school rebranding back on

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The search for a new mascot for a North Bay high school will proceed after controversy brought the rebranding to a halt last year.

Near North District School Board started looking for a new name for Chippewa Secondary School in 2017 as part of a consolidation of three North Bay high schools.

Concerns about racism and cultural appropriation over the Chippewa Raiders brand prompted the board of trustees to support the renaming and rebranding process in December 2022.

"The Chippewa school community recognizes the need to remove the Raider mascot (originally known as Chief W), which represented the school for many years," the school board report said.

"Recognition of the violence and offensive nature of the mascot has led the school to where they are now, a school with no identity. They are seeking to follow a process that engages them in reflecting who they are and what they represent as a community."

Chippewa Principal Krista Tucker Petrick said in a board report she had "been told female Indigenous students have been called 'chippe-squaws' both in the past and present" and that "tomahawk tournaments and stereotypical chants are a recent memory for most."

"The harm that has been done to these students is unacceptable," she said.

However, the renaming decision sparked some outrage and backlash in the community.

An online petition started March 2023 to stop the name change.

"Many people of all cultures have attended this school for decades," Chippewa alumni Stephen Brown said in the petition that gathered 3,074 supporters.

"It's on Chippewa Street and Chippewa Creek goes along side of it."

The renaming process was paused last fall before being rescinded by the school board in December 2023.

Tuesday night, the NNDSB trustees approved a motion to form a school-based committee to oversee the rebranding as it resumes.

"The committee will not oversee renaming," the school board said in a news release Thursday.

"The motion voices trustee agreement with rebranding and the transition of rebranding to the school, which trustee (Bill) Steer noted is 'good for students and the community.'"

Because the school is currently without a mascot, the new committee will work collaboratively to select one for teams and clubs to use.

"This will be an opportunity to 'learn from past mistakes and hurts' and is a chance to build relationships with community and First Nations partners," Indigenous trustee Ashley St. Pierre is quoted as saying in the news release.

The December 2022 board report said the estimated cost to replace school sports uniforms is $53,800.

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