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How A Duwamish Student Became The Mascot For Renton High School

Courtesy of the Renton History Museum
Henry Moses (fourth from right) was a student at Renton High School from 1916 to 1920.

This story originally aired on April 29, 2017.

Sometimes our good intentions in the past can have unintended consequences generations later. That’s the idea behind a new exhibit at the Renton History Museum. It’s all about the Renton High School mascot: the Indians.
There’s a lot of controversy over the use of native Americans as sports mascots. However for Renton High School, the mascot was actually inspired by one individual: Henry Moses, a direct descendant of Duwamish Chief Sealth. The school took on the name to honor his athletic ability and as a direct response to racist slurs from other schools. 

Sarah Samson is the curator at the Renton History Museum. She talks with Sound Effect host Jennifer Wing about how Renton High School became known as the Indians in 1920 and how the mascot has evolved over the years.

"I just want [people] to understand the full history of [the name]," said Samson. "From where it started, in banding around Henry Moses and making him feel like he belonged, to the 1950s through the '80s, which was really the heyday of using the stylized imagery that included a lot of negative stereotypes of Native Americans and what that does to the Native American community."

You can check out this exhibit about Henry Moses and the Renton High School Indians at the Renton History Museum until May 17.