RSS alumni left feeling ‘disheartened’ after school changes sports team’s name – Okanagan

A former Rutland Senior Secondary student says he feels disheartened to see the school’s sports teams will no longer be known as the Voodoos.

Casey Peake spent three seasons playing football for the RSS Voodoos, proudly donning the school’s gold and blue colour scheme whenever he took to the field.

“It’s a tradition that you’re excited to be a part of,” said RSS alumni Casey Peake.

“You bleed that school’s colours essentially for the time that you’re there and even in the future. I still rock my Rutland football gear out and about out in the community.”

But on Thursday, the school announced it had officially changed its team’s name to the Rutland Senior Secondary Thunder, after the school announced in January it was looking at rebranding.

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“It came down to either Thunder or Wolverines for the final vote, and about 60 per cent of the school favoured Thunder,” said Principal Hugh Alexander.

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“Rutland Thunder has a ring to it, but the best part is seeing our students get together and rally behind the name as we know our community will at many events to come.”

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The decision to change the name doesn’t sit well with Peake. He says he doesn’t understand why the school would change the team’s name and erase its longstanding history.

“It irks me a little bit that you’re kind of taking away all those years of tradition,” explained Peake.

“Being a Voodoo and what that means to not only the school but everybody in the community who’s been lucky enough to attend school there or be a Voodoo at some point in their life.”

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However, RSS teacher Chris Werry says the change was necessary. In 2018, students began voicing their concerns about the team’s name and how it reflects poorly on the school’s identity.

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“We’re part of education, and so we listened to the students and started doing our own research and realized there is a history to that term that comes from a racial point down in the southern U.S. at the time of slavery,” Werry said.

“We decided its maybe not an appropriate name for our school.”

The Voodoo moniker has been in place since the ’60s. The name was a nod to a Canadian warplane, but it is more readily associated with an Afro-Caribbean belief system.

Notably, the school’s mascot was a caricature of a witch doctor from the latter, though many just called it “the pineapple guy” because it bore a striking resemblance to the fruit.

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The school’s grad council president says ever since he became a student at RSS, he felt the name didn’t represent his diverse school community. Now that the schools team name change has gone through, the Rugby player says he feels a new sense of pride for his school.

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“This is something that I think has been uneasy with me and a lot of students for quite a while, and our wonderful teachers who are leading this – Chris Werry and Sherrie Farquhar, they’ve done a fantastic job,” said RSS student and grad council president, Eli Ebl.

“I’m proud of this place.”

Despite the name change, the school will continue competing in their classic blue and gold colour scheme, a tradition that started back in the mid-1950s.

The school has yet to release what their new logo, or its mascot will look like, but Alexander says students and teachers are looking forward to coming up with something new.

with files from Kathy Michaels

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