Cedar City Council, public weigh keeping ‘Redmen’ symbol on city’s water tank

A standing-room only crowd fills the Cedar City Council chambers during a city council public hearing regarding keeping the "Redmen" symbol on the city's water tank, Cedar City, Utah, June 5, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — The city-owned water tank atop Leigh Hill needs a new coat of paint, almost everyone in attendance at Wednesday night’s Cedar City Council meeting seems to agree. But whether the tank will continue to display the name “Redmen” and a silhouette of a Native American chieftain wearing a headdress remains to be seen.

Water tank with “Redmen” emblem painted on it, atop Leigh Hill, as seen from adjacent Ridge Road, Cedar City, Utah, May 24, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

The issue was discussed at length during the work meeting after Councilman Paul Cozzens introduced a proposed resolution that would proclaim the Redmen logo, which has adorned the side of the tank since the early 1970s, is to remain there as “a monument reserved to bear the colors and Redmen symbol of Cedar High School.

As he read aloud the proposed resolution, Cozzens noted that the money needed to paint and maintain the logo and other aesthetic elements of the tank will be obtained from private donations and that no taxpayer funds will be used for that purpose.

“I think there’s a lot of meaning to that sign the way it is,” Cozzens said. “If we do that, it could bring this community together.”

Cozzens also suggested that the range of dates “1942-2019” be added to the tank, indicating the years that the Redmen served as Cedar High School’s official symbol.

The issue has divided the community since last fall when the Iron County School District Board of Education appointed a committee to study Cedar High’s longtime use of the Redmen name and associated Native American imagery in its logo. In February, the school board voted 3-2 to “respectfully retire” the Redmen symbol, after which a transition team was named to come up with a replacement.

Read more: Students vote to switch Cedar High School mascot to Reds

Before the public comment period on the proposed water tank resolution began Wednesday night, city council member Terri Hartley reminded the speakers to limit their comments to the issue of the tank itself rather than on any of the school board’s decisions, which she said “are not in our jurisdiction.”

Hartley indicated she was hopeful the tank could serve a useful purpose in commemorating the Redmen name as “a source of honor and pride,” while also helping mend the rift that has divided the community over the past several months.

“Keeping the mascot on the tank is one way to bridge this painful divide,” Hartley said. “I want to see our community heal.”

But fellow council member Scott Phillips said, “I have a hard time seeing how this resolution is going to solve the disharmony in our community.”

Phillips also wondered if there should not be any kind of advertisement on the tank at all.

Wednesday’s standing room only crowd included numerous supporters wearing Cedar Redmen T-shirts and holding up signs saying “We Are Redmen.”

Several others of the opposing view held aloft signs that read “No to the racist water tank!”

Of the 15 people that spoke during the meeting’s allotted comment period, at least nine were clearly in favor of keeping the name Redmen, while about three or four were against, with a couple others uncommitted.

As other commenters in line await their turn to speak, Taniah Henrie voices her support of keeping the “Redmen” name and logo on the city’s water tank, during a meeting of the Cedar City Council, Cedar City, Utah, June 5, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Taniah Henrie, a CHS graduate and a member of the Paiute tribe, said she supports keeping the logo on the tank.

“It lets us know that there’s still someone out there who remembers us,” Henrie said.

Merrillee Ham, another Paiute, said she also supports the use of the name Redmen, but noted that the issue has also divided members of the tribe, which she said has not officially taken a position one way or the other.

Another commenter said she had personally gained a deeper appreciation for Native Americans and their culture because of the Redmen mascot. She said she prefers the term “cultural appreciation” over “cultural appropriation,” calling the latter term “a negative label meant to divide.”

Another speaker, Tamara Henderson, said she is part of four generations of proud Redmen in her family.

“The majority of Cedar City wants that Redmen tank left alone,” Henderson said. “It means so much to so many.”

Harold Haynie, a former member of the Iron County school board, also spoke briefly, cautioning the city council against taking actions that could be construed as “undermining” decisions already made by the school board and school district.

Another commenter, a CHS graduate, said he feels the tank’s imagery “reflects extremely poorly” on the community’s values.

Expressing a similar sentiment was the public hearing’s first speaker, Joy Sterrantino, who said she was embarrassed by the sign’s “racist overtones.”

“We can do better than this,” she said.

At least two of the speakers who said they supported keeping the Redmen logo on the tank, also said they would donate money to help buy paint and supplies for its upkeep.

“Thank you for coming and being part of the process,” Cedar City Mayor Maile Wilson Edwards told the attendees as the comment period ended. “There’s a lot of emotion on both sides.”

Earlier in the meeting, the mayor said she hoped the issue could be used as an educational and learning opportunity to help unify the community.

The council is expected to vote on the resolution during its next regular meeting, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on June 12.

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