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Denver Boone is dead. Long live Denver Boone!

Denver Boone is dead. Long live Denver Boone!

The University of Denver was founded in 1864, only five years after Denver got its start and the same year a flood threatened to wipe the tiny town off the map. But DU has always had a fighting spirit — and today, both students and alumni are fighting mad over Boone, the once-official, now-very-unofficial image representing the Pioneers.

At this point, the only mascot the DU community might agree on would be a giant, foil-wrapped burrito with legs — inspired by Steve Ells, the DU alum who was quite the fast-casual pioneer when he opened the first Chipotle in an old Dolly Madison store down the street from DU in July 1993. Today that chain has more than a thousand locations, with new ones opening all the time — not only in this country, but across Europe. And these days, the only thing growing faster than the Chipotle empire is the controversy over Boone.

Decades ago, the school commissioned a Walt Disney artist to create an image to go with the Pioneers name — and a goofy, bearded, coonskin-cap-wearing cartoon character named Denver Boone represented DU through Vietnam protests and school strikes, from 1968 all the way to the late '90s. But in 1998, DU administrators decided to do away with Boone after some students pointed out that the character was modeled after Daniel Boone and represented a way of life that had resulted in the death of thousands and the destruction of many Native American tribes. And so Boone was sent off alone into the wilderness, and a red-tailed hawk was brought in as a new mascot.

The hawk never flew, though, and a decade later, students and alumni petitioned to bring back Boone, citing the boost the mascot might give to school spirit. Chancellor Robert Coombe created a committee to examine the idea, and although it was rejected in 2008, DU administrators did agree that groups could continue to use the character's likeness as a "celebration of the past" to push events on campus. And Boone was back as an unofficial mascot, cheering at games; slurping down the Boone margarita at the Pioneer bar; inspiring the founding of Boone's, the restaurant on East Evans that just won our Best Green Chile award in the Best of Denver 2013; and even snagging a Readers' Choice award for Best Mascot in that same issue.

Boone's fans have been very busy.

But Boone's critics have been busy, too, and wound up in a scuffle with campus security when Boone joined a crew filming a Harlem Shake video on campus in February.

"People were kind of afraid when we protested Boone that we were trying to stop community from being built," remembers student Jose Guerrero. "But in reality, we were being excluded from that community as indigenous people. Now we're building community, as well."

On March 13, in the wake of what he called "considerable controversy" that had shaken out after that Boone boondoggle, Chancellor Coombe told the DU community that Boone was again being banished — this time for good. When he'd studied the issue in 2008, Coombe wrote, "It quickly became clear that Boone was a polarizing figure that did not reflect the growing diversity of the DU community, but rather was an image that many women, persons of color, international students and faculty members found difficult to relate to as defining the pioneering spirit." And the compromise to allow Boone to be used as an unofficial mascot representing the school's past had simply not worked out.

At the end of February, the Undergraduate Student Government had voted to "phase out funding from student activities fees used by clubs or student groups for materials bearing the Boone image, effective 30 days after the adoption of a new official mascot," Coombe noted. "As we mount a productive conversation about a new mascot, I hope our thoughts will be forward-looking and reflective of the University that we are to become, rather than the University that we were decades ago. Ten years from now, our student population will be vastly more diverse than it is now, in a way that represents tremendous intellectual potential for the institution as a whole. The real question is whether as a community we will be vastly more inclusive than we are now, with our images and icons, and our mascot, reflective of that rich diversity and inclusiveness. We should challenge ourselves to look to that future."

DU's athletics department quickly took up that challenge; last week, two "spirit" murals at Magness Arena featuring Boone were painted over, and "a nice little piece of history was lost forever," pronounced the LetsGoDU.blogspot. "This is what happens when the line blurs between running a university and acting like a Third-World despot."

Damien Goddard, an alum who runs that blog, says he worked to bring back Boone a decade ago to help improve school spirit — and the school's finances. "Everything we've done with our group has been to get more students to go to the games," he explains. "Schools have discovered that having a vibrant student section is one of the best marketing tools you can have at a university."

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29 comments
marin.klostermeier
marin.klostermeier

@ Jason Starr Thank you for asking fro my opinion, bringing in different perspectives is admirable.                                                                                                                                              

Before I start I would like to say that as a white person I am looking at this issue fro a position of racial privilege and the words that I am about to write do not represent ideas that I have personally created, but are representative of the ideas of Native people who I have spent time discussing this issue with.   (And judging from your profile picture I am assuming that you are also writing on this issue from the perspective of someone with white privilege).      

Here we go...                                                                                                          

Just because Boone supporters don't actively behave as racists the fact that they are not defending the voices of representatives of a population that in the past were victims of explicit racism and that continue to be victims of institutionalized racism means that they are COMPLIANT.  In other words, because they are not actively fighting against a figure that has a history of personifying a racist ideology means that they support (whether they realize it or not) a system that is continuing the SAME racist ideology.                            

Even though there are some instances of Native People acting in violent ways we need to remember who colonized whom.                                                                                            

If we want to live in a world where there is intercultural understanding and appreciation the majority class needs to hear and LISTEN to the voices of the minority classes just as they would for fellow members of the majority class.  How can people say that they support the efforts of the Native Student Alliance when they are ignoring their requests?                                                               

Just because one of your ancestors fought for the rights of Native Americans does not give you a pass to do and say whatever you want, it's like saying that you can say the "N" word because you have a friend who is Black.                                                                                

I am particularly disturbed when people like you do such a good job at identifying the history of discrimination that haunt Native people, but then say that they don't want to change! If ANYONE wants to be seen as a supporter of the Native Student Alliance or Native people in general it is IMPERATIVE that they change something! You CANNOT maintain the status quo while at the same time expecting change!@jason.m.starr 

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

It's about the sport .

Not the mascot ......

jboyz
jboyz

I find it funny because the argument that it was "money" that swayed the decision, but to be honest, by getting rid of all the pro boone supporters, all you did was make a small minority happy.  Congrats DU - you got rid of all the big money dollars and minimized donations to solely be in the form Chipotle gift cards.  Sad day for DU

patricia.calhoun
patricia.calhoun moderator editor

i'd like to publish some of these letters in our print edition, ideally with the author's full name, let me know if that's okay by e-mailing patricia.calhoun@westword.com.

geoz
geoz

I'm disappointed that some folks who seek to end racism take simplistic and subtractive approaches as if humanity were not shades of gray.  Were all pioneers all bad all the time? Of course not.  Were some bad some of the time? Of course they were.  They were heroic and shameful because they were human beings.  To ban their memory is trying (and failing) to take an easy path to understand the West, America, and, indeed, humanity.  Students are likely to make such choices when not well guided.  The admin should be in front of this as a teaching opportunity.  They are not.  They are playing a political game and missing that opportunity to go deeper. 

marin.klostermeier
marin.klostermeier

I just hate how people try to pass their desire to have Boone as a mascot as a desire for "transparency" or a "way to bring the school together". They need to realize that those two things do not mix well with racism.

geronimo_colo
geronimo_colo

The problem was that Boone was slurping down so many margaritas that he couldn’t find a way to the hockey games last season. This is a classic case of mismanagement.DG hired a kid to wear the costume who was better qualified to be a sidewalk sign spinner than represent the University.

The only financial impact will be to DG’s business that sells t-shirts and jerseys with a picture of Boone.

charleskingep
charleskingep

"It quickly became clear that Boone was a polarizing figure that did not reflect the growing diversity of the DU community, but rather was an image that many women, persons of color, international students and faculty members found difficult to relate to as defining the pioneering spirit."
How very true...the number of "Coloraaaaadens" who would have ANY ability to relate to a pioneer are getting fewer and fewer.  The ability to venture out into an unknown land, face hardships of weather, wild beasts, and other challenges without their blackberry and government assistance has gone the way of the trolley car and drive-in movie.  My mother was 3rd Generation Coloradan and attended DU back when it was euphemistically called "Tramway Tech" 'cause it was at the terminus of the trolley line.
Colorado was built on a pioneer spirit; the kind of spirit you only read about in tales of Lewis & Clark, and for that era of Colorado history Boone was appropriate and reflected the "rugged individualism" of most Coloradans.
But now DU represents the latte'-and-scones, trust-baby mentality of its students who couldn't change a tire on their Audi or BMW without a call to the auto club.  "Pioneering" to them is stretching the envelope of 'decency' by writing a politically correct, THC enhanced term paper that attacks every white male, any American institution, and vilifies the very pioneers that built Denver and provided the civilization in which they thrive.  They are the ones who hate the smell of late January because the Stock Show is so "unsophisticated" and really think Colorado would be so much better if it was more like San Francisco.  They are the grown-up larva e of the "Me" generation who have taken it one stop further to the "Me and only Me" generation while charging it all to Mummy and Dadum's credit card.
They could no more survive a week in Daniel Boone's moccasins than go a day without checking their Facebook.  So, goodnight dear Denver Boone.  You, like many of us multi-generational Coloradans have no place in this new era.  With the continued Californication of our dear state, I'm sure many of us will be joining you soon!


GregLJK
GregLJK

Steve Ells is not a DU alum

geoz
geoz

It's too bad.  Goddard did well to bring back Boone. 

It seems that the admin purports inclusivity through subtraction in this act.  

The elimination of Boone will not change the death of Native Americans and if this idea had been proposed by those now opposed to Boone, they would deride it as sweeping history under the rug.  That is, if this the solution, then you need to think a little more deeply. 

Inclusivity means adding, not subracting.  Boone the character killed no one.  He carries no weapon.  He could be any settler.  I'm reminded of how my ancestors eliminated the German language from our family, as if that eliminated our Germanic culture.  I lost out when they did that, and DU loses out here.   The admin is right that the next generation will be fine without Boone.  It just seems dismissive of those who have appreciated Boone without malice. 

It looks, from the outside, as if the DU admin lost control of the institution.  

osgoodschlotter
osgoodschlotter

I never knew that "Daniel Boone ... represented a way of life that had resulted in the death of thousands and the destruction of many Native American tribes."  And what "way of life" is that?  

Why is it that no one b*tches about "the way of life" that led to the settling of Spain.  Or "the way of life" that led to the creation of Japan.

This is idiotic.  I'm tired of people trying to guilt others for the colonization of North America and the early settlers who created our country.

Grow up.  It's 2013.  

dggoddard
dggoddard

So two murals that we're painted in Magness Arena in January 2012 and July 2012 need to be updated periodically?

I guess if you're going to fire your two-time National Champion hockey coach, they'll be painting over Gwozdecky tomorrow.  And Paul Stastny is injured right now so DU better replace him with Drew Shore until he comes off the diabled list.

Before & after photos of the murals:  http://letsgodu.blogspot.com/2013/03/du-edits-mascots-from-magness-arena.html


jason.m.starr
jason.m.starr

@marin.klostermeierWith all due respect, Marin, please explain to me how supporting the Denver Boone mascot equates to racism?  That is a pretty strong word, so hopefully you can explain.  Is the mascot (and his supporters) really racist, or is he more likely a victim of negative, racial and cultural stereotyping?  Please read my Facebook post (link below) before answering (though I really do want to hear your thoughts on this):  https://www.facebook.com/denver.boone/posts/364602156979500

dggoddard
dggoddard

Students volunteer to be Boone.  No one is paid.  Ever.

I have never sold any Boone merchandise, I don't have any affiliation with anyone who sells Boone merchandise and never collected one dollar from anyone who sells Boone merchandise.

Nice try.

That being said, I hope everyone buys Boone merchandise and wears it.

www.logoyourteam.com


geoz
geoz

@charleskingep Sorry you feel that way. I went to DU, am the child of true American pioneers and I also worked selling programs at the stock show.  Had a great time.  Then I went home and worked all summer to save for college. 

I don't know what DU is now, but I'm approaching my 30th reunion year there. 

a.santistevan.cis
a.santistevan.cis

@charleskingep I think a majority of the people you're describing are as Boone obsessed as you. Not all of us at DU are as privileged, we are not the people you are describing and we do not support Boone.

marin.klostermeier
marin.klostermeier

@charleskingep At least we are willing to acknowledge the privilege we and and be critical of it!  It is in being critical of the systems of oppression that we were born into that we can work towards reversing them; further the privilege of many of the students at DU gives them a position to make those changes in an effective way.   And I am proud to say that I would never be able to survive a day in Boone's moccasins, i would much rather spend a day in the shoes of Bayard Rustin or Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. 

marin.klostermeier
marin.klostermeier

@geoz Being inclusive does mean adding, but sometime when you add you need to get rid of symbols of death and oppression that have kept people from being included.

a.santistevan.cis
a.santistevan.cis

@osgoodschlotter we don't live in Spain or Japan, we live in the United States. Part of being an American is embracing everything that is America and that is diversity. Diversity includes Native Americans. I know it's hard to believe when most DU students grew up in gated communities and went to private schools but white America isn't the only America. The sooner you embrace it, the better because its only getting more diverse.

a.santistevan.cis
a.santistevan.cis

@osgoodschlotter white privilege, look it up. The privilege to dismiss something as "in the past" because your ancestors were not the ones being oppressed.

marin.klostermeier
marin.klostermeier

@osgoodschlotter It's not about guilting, it's about remembering horrible things that happened in our past that set up horrible stereotypes and systems of oppression that need to be irradiated.  And yes, sometimes that does mean we need to be critical of ourselves and our privilege. 

marin.klostermeier
marin.klostermeier

@dggoddard Those people do not represent the slaughter of hounders of thousands of people, so I don't think we will be getting rid of them anytime soon.

charleskingep
charleskingep

Rustin, a member of the USACP (truly a "useful idiot" of Stalin), who could enjoy being a pacifist because 500,000 white guys who WEREN'T pacifists fought (and many died) so he could have his freedom during the civil war.  You have chosen the perfect torchbearer to prove my point.  The students of DU (and much of today's society) thrive because of the hard work, blood, sweat, and capital ventures of the generations before... and instead of recognizing their indebtedness to those previous generations, they vilify and attack them... all while maxing out mom and dad's credit cards.  It is the ultimate in ingratitude!  The only people who support Socialism and Communism are those whom have never experienced it, because living in a Capitalistic country they can AFFORD to.  And as far as Ms Ulrich; she is just SO darn insightful until you realize history has rarely been changed by well behaved MEN either.

geoz
geoz

@marin.klostermeier @geoz 

I agree.  I don't think settlers are necessarily a symbol of death and oppression.  That's what makes this change merely a power shift and not inclusive.  All of humanity can be a symbol of death but we can't live by excluding all of humanity. 

geoz
geoz

@a.santistevan.cis  I have no intention of changing your mind on this, but I disagree.  Your sweeping statement about DU students is false.  And if you plan on embracing everything, then dismissing white male pioneers with a snide "white privilege, look it up" then I think you have a shallow view of humanity.  It is more complicated. Certainly there is white privilege but that neither makes the mascot good nor bad as we can see with native american mascots that many don't like including me, unless with the permission of the people they represent.  Pioneers certainly represent my personal past as my family did travel west in a wagon and established a town in present day Nebraska.   I have no record of them personally killing people - they might have.  If they did, I would be very sad about that but it doesn't change history.  Hiding pioneers and settlers is a weak way to address them.  Therefore, I suggest adding to the story.  Add a pantheon of mascots.  Otherwise, you promote a power shift rather than a power expansion.  Let's lift all the boats together, not sink one for the benefit of others.

 
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