Former DU mascot Boone is in trouble

The University of Denver Pioneers have always had that fighting spirit, but over the past decade, some of that fighting has focused on the school's longtime — and now former — mascot, a bearded, coonskin-cap-wearing pioneer named Denver Boone.

Created in 1968, the cartoon character was designed by a Walt Disney artist and served as the school's official mascot for thirty years. But in the late 1990s, some students began to complain about Boone, saying that the smiling, chubby-cheeked character was named after Daniel Boone and represented a way of life that resulted in the destruction of many Native American tribes and the deaths of thousands of people.

In 1998, the school's administration decided to do away with Boone — but a decade later, a group of students and alumni began a campaign to bring Boone back. After they'd petitioned the university over the course of a year, Chancellor Robert Coombe created a committee to examine the idea — but he ultimately rejected it, saying, "The committee's initial efforts indicated a groundswell of support for Boone. Over time, though, the responses became more polarized, a growing number suggesting that the Boone image of the 1970s was simply not reflective of either the DU or America of today, still less of the future. From this perspective, the old Boone figure is one that does not reflect the broad diversity of the DU community and is not an image that many of today's women, persons of color, international students and faculty, and others can easily relate to as defining the pioneering spirit. Certainly, this runs counter to our commitment to build a diverse and inclusive campus community as a fundamental element of excellence. While there was some discussion among the committee members of the possibility of modernizing the Boone image, this generated little enthusiasm."

Denver Boone shakes his way through this DU Harlem Shake video on YouTube.
Denver Boone shakes his way through this DU Harlem Shake video on YouTube.

DU did say that alumni and students could continue to use the character's likeness, though. So the group brought Boone back on an unofficial basis in 2009, creating memorabilia and a costume that a student wore to numerous sporting events and other school activities. DU also briefly experimented with a new mascot, Ruckus the red-tailed hawk, but the bird didn't get a lot of support. So at the moment, DU doesn't have an official mascot, says university spokeswoman Jordan Ames, though the school is researching the possibility of creating one in the near future.

But Boone hasn't gone away — and neither have the hard feelings.

The latest skirmish came last Friday during, yes, the filming of a DU "Harlem Shake" video for YouTube. (Don't know what the Harlem Shake craze is? Google it and then return to this story — if you can keep yourself from watching more Harlem Shake videos. They can be kind of addicting in an embarrassing sort of way.)

The incident occurred around 1:30 p.m., when a group of students who had a permit to use the area outside the Driscoll Student Center began filming their video with someone dressed up as Boone, Ames says. (See that video at, along with a list of our ten favorite Harlem Shake videos, at "Campus safety was contacted about three students who became pretty confrontational" in their protests of the not-mascot; the three students were offered alternatives as to where they could publicly protest, but became confrontational with campus security as well before finally leaving, Ames continues, then adds: "Our campus safety is not aware of any complains about the way it was handled."

But there was at least one complaint. In a letter to Westword, one of the protestors writes, "The students were physically shoved out of the perimeter even though they were also members of the university. They were also told that their organization was not allowed to be at the event."

The letter writer went on to say that Boone is a racist mascot and that "this sort of discrimination needs to be addressed and cannot go shoved under the carpet."

Ames says this is the first she's heard of any protests over Boone since 2008, but since Boone just started his own Facebook page and Twitter account as part of a new effort to get himself reinstated, she's likely to hear more soon.

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This is the biggest load of nonsense. We have apparently reached the point when we can never have any representation of anyone who lived at a time when someone else was oppressed (which, let's see, is...any time in history) and can be tied by a shoestring to any oppressive movement or attitude (which, let's see, includes...pretty much everyone.)

If Daniel Boone is apparently off limits because he is such a racist lighting rod, we can say the same thing for almost any prominent American statesman, mountain man, President, explorer, etc. who lived at any time prior to 1970. Better exclude any "Miners" mascots throughout the country. After all, they pillaged the land and resources of Native Americans, right? Better not have the "Spartans" or "Trojans," those dastardly, war-driven, slave-owning, ethno-centric rascals! After all, we wouldn't want to stray too far from people wearing giant animal costumes...and it wouldn't be too hard to find someone who is offended by that.

This is so ridiculous it hurts. Apparently some people in the DU area need to find something better to do than look for reasons to be offended.


The mascot doesn't carry a weapon of any kind.  He is, perhaps, an agressive settler of the West. We can't walk away from the bravery nor the complexity of history of the American West.  Changing mascots doesn't change the history.  This is the least effective and reactionary of all possible solutions. 

How about adding instead of taking away.  Can there be an appropriate addition that fits under the Pioneer umbrella? 

There are big issues out there. This mascot isn't one of them. If a redress is in order, then discuss it. Throwing stones at Boone or all pioneers doesn't change history.  

Geoz DU '88


Dear University of Denver and Greater Denver Community,

As an organization, University of Denver Students for Justice in Palestine fights in solidarity with indigenous Palestinians, utilizing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions tactics against the State of Israel.  Because we recognize that indigenous struggles throughout the world have similar colonial roots that make each group’s struggles inherently connected, we would like to formally stand in solidarity with the Native Student Alliance.

As we fight with Palestinians to reclaim their homelands, we recognize that the state that governs us, as well as our communities, resides on stolen indigenous land and that Denver is the ancestral home of the Cheyenne, Arapahoe, and Ute people. We acknowledge that both the United States and Israel are colonial enterprises that threaten indigenous people in North America and in the Middle East.

We condemn the University of Denver’s historical record of conjuring up colonial imagery in marketing and public relations campaigns. The recurring image of the unofficial mascot, the “Pioneer,” in public representations of DU reaffirms a Eurocentric understanding of Colorado and western history and glorifies a violent history of white settler land theft and cultural erasure. While also no longer the official mascot, the still very present, (Daniel) Boone, is a specific example of a figure from an era of “exploration” and conquest, who contributed to the erosion of indigenous sovereignty. DU’s choice of invoking these figures locates indigenous peoples in the past, which is extremely condescending and racist.

We believe that DU Campus Safety has fostered an incredibly oppressive social climate at our university, most recently by reacting aggressively towards members of the Native Student Alliance’s peaceful protest against the use of Boone as a tool of campus pride. Indeed, acts like this actively denigrate indigenous presence on campus, and perpetuate the myth that indigenous students are not entitled to the use of public space. The efforts on Tuesday, February 19, 2013, at the Undergraduate Student Government meeting, to condemn Boone are decades overdue, yet we know that this unfortunately does not spell the end of Boone as a central figure in DU’s history.

Colonial legacy has tarnished the University’s history beyond the level of imagery. In 1864, the year the school was created, two of the founding members participated in the Sand Creek Massacre, an atrocity and war crime widely regarded as one of the most poignant examples of indigenous genocide of the United States’ westward expansion. One of which was Colonel John Chivington who ordered his troops to attack an encampment of Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians, killing and mutilating an estimated 70-163 people. John Evans, who was governor of the Colorado Territory at the time, awarded Chivington for this heinous crime. Both of these men had pivotal roles in DU’s history and DU played a pivotal role in supplying morale and supposed justification for the massacre to take place. The University of Denver has yet to reconcile this violent and racist portion of its history and perpetuates the alternative and inaccurate image of the noble white man by maintaining notions such as the “pioneer”, “Boone”, and our founders in a positive light. It silences indigenous history.

We believe that true diversity would not silence the Native Student Alliance who continue the struggle of their ancestors who resisted for centuries violent encroachments onto their land and against their way of life.

DU Students for Justice in Palestine expresses utmost solidarity with the Native Student alliance, through our mutual interests: educating the student body on issues of colonization in Palestine and the Americas; acting towards the self-determination of communities effected by these processes; and respecting the planet. Let it be heard that because of our solidarity, SJP will not be silent in the face of the violence enacted upon indigenous members of our campus community, in the ways it occurred last week.

We hope you will join us in solidarity with indigenous rights across the globe,

University of Denver Students for Justice in Palestine


This is what happens when you allow too many Trustafarians in one place.  DU needs to think about some diversity in its student population on this point.  Out of  state rich kids and local not rich kids is not diversity.  Even CU manages a better mix.

Also, these idiots need to go put that excess time and energy to a proper use. Go volunteer at a homeless shelter.  Go volunteer to help abused and neglected children (there is an horrifically unfortunate abundance of them). 

Oh wait, they don't actually venture out of the DU neighborhood. 

If they really, really need to protest against a racist mascot, the whole debate on the Redskins name has been boiling again.  Although Dan Snyder probably has more money than all of these kids' daddies.


@beername All three students were of ethnic minority status and members of the Native Student Alliance, a group that specifically promotes diversity and inclusiveness for everyone.  So, yeah, they really, really need to protest against a racist mascot. What was that you were saying about diversity and rich privileged kids?