BLOOMINGTON — For about 30 years a Native American image represented the Bloomington High School Purple Raiders, and now the school’s last significant artifact from that era — a near-life-size statue of a Native American — is for sale.
The gift from the class of 1989 stood in a glass cabinet against a wall in the BHS library for several years, but now it will be auctioned at the annual BHS Boosters’ steak fry Oct. 1. BHS Principal Tim Moore said he can’t guess the final auction price will be.
“We’ll see what happens,” Moore said.
While BHS teams remain Purple Raiders, the school board voted in 2001 to retire the Native American image. The statue remained, but library renovations next summer will leave no room for it.
District 87 Superintendent Barry Reilly said the district looked at options for finding the statue a new home, including donating the statue to the McLean County Museum of History. It was decided instead to donate it to the booster club, which will share the proceeds from its auction with this year’s senior class.
The class of 2012 likely will use its share of the money to continue the tradition of buying a gift for the school. “The seniors get to pick (what that will be),” Moore said.
A medallion featuring a Native American face in profile that once hung on an exterior wall of BHS was donated to the boosters in 2002 and sold at auction.
Reilly was BHS principal in summer 2001 when the school board decided to discontinue use of the Native American image. Like many schools across the nation, BHS was responding to increasing controversy over what was seen as cultural and racial insensitivity.
“We weren’t pioneers, but did it early on,” Reilly said of dropping such a symbol.
Students at the time voted not to adopt a specific mascot as a replacement.
Reilly recalled worrying over the summer how students would react when school started that fall.
Students took it better than parents and staff, he said. There were some peaceful protests in the form of T-shirts, banners and posters at games for the next few years.
Some old Raider items are still sold in the community, and some uniforms still exist, but Reilly called the statue the last significant piece from that time.
What: BHS Booster steak fry and auction
When: 5 to 7 p.m. Oct. 1
Where: Interstate Center, 2301 W. Market St., Bloomington
Tickets: $15, available at the door