God Bless the Scouts


Carter Horan

During the 7th inning stretch of a New York Yankees game, it was a tradition to hear “God Bless America” by Katie Smith. The bellows of New Yorkers filled the historic stadium, each person preaching their patriotism toward America. It also played through the air of the Wells Fargo Center, home of the Philadelphia Flyers. In 1987, the city of Philadelphia even erected a statue outside the Philly Sports Complex to commemorate Smith’s work. But now, Katie Smith is no longer deemed as an American icon, but as an American villain.

Earlier this week, it was revealed that in 1931, Katie Smith had written songs condoning racism pointed directly at African-Americans. In a different era of time, Smith had a song titled “That’s Why Darkies Were Born” in which she used blatant, offensive racism towards American slaves. “Someone had to pick the cotton, someone had to pick the corn, someone had to slave and be able to sing, that’s why darkies were born,” writes Smith.

Now, both teams no longer play the timeless tune, and the statue has since been taken down. Many are upset at the organizations since the message of “God Bless America” is completely unrelated to Smith’s 1931 song. On the other hand, many believe it’s justified to remove her name from anything associated with the public.

This move not only brings attention to worldwide racism and offensive gestures, but also shines a light on a particular subject here at Lake Forest High School— the ‘Scout.’ Since anyone can remember, Lake Forest has been symbolized by the Scout on our apparel, our walls, and in our hearts. The Cleveland Indians recently removed their ‘Chief Wahoo’ logo after controversy surrounding offensive Native American heritage. Are the Scouts next?

After an incident at Deerpath Middle School, a feeder to LFHS, Deerpath administrators recently removed any logos connecting to a ‘Brave’— symbolizing an American Indian figure. Their official mascot still stands as a ‘Brave,’ yet they show no logos or symbols related to it. There was also speculation that this all came after the complaint of a single parent.

Just south of Lake Forest, Niles West High School was forced to change their Indian mascot after being voted on by the District in 2000. Many were against the change, but representatives of Native American groups said the name disrespects their heritage. They claim that the Indian “evoked images of a feathered, tomahawk-waving warrior” that misrepresents their culture.

There have always been rumors and discussions of this happening at LFHS, but no action has been taken. The Lake Forest Scout symbolizes a hard-working, competitive-driven role model for students to follow, and I believe there is no reason why it should be removed. There is no disrespect conveyed toward the Native American culture in the way we present ourselves as ‘Scouts.’ Both East and West campus exhibit Scout paintings on their walls, and I believe they’re here to stay.

Originally, the Lake Forest Scout was named “Skippy” but is no longer been referred to by his or her formal name. Does Skippy the Lake Forest Scout offend the Native American culture? For some it may, but for me, it does just the opposite. It exemplifies the hard-working mentality of Native Americans. On the other side, I feel the Cleveland Indians ‘Chief Wahoo’ logo could be deemed as offensive with the stereotypical red face and distinct facial features, but the Scout is completely different.

Lake Forest has sold apparel with the Scout logo, Scout spear, and other Native American symbols, and has not had any problems.

I spoke with Janet Hanekamp who has worked at the Spirit Store for over five years about the Scouts gear they sell with the Indian logo:

“I’ve worked at the Spirit Store for the last five years and we’ve carried just a few items with the Scout Indian logo…[it] is also part of the Booster logo. Most of our items have the LF spear logo, similar to the car stickers you see around town. We’ve never received any complaints that I am aware of. As a matter of fact, we are often asked by customers if we carry items with the Scout Indian.”

The Lake Forest community has embraced the Scout for more than just a mascot. Students of LFHS carry a high reputation among community members, and we’re all labeled together as ‘Scouts.’ Will Lake Forest ever run into a problem with the Scout mascot? Possibly, but I believe it won’t ever be changed. The community will continue to shout “Go Scouts” at sporting events, and LFHS alumni will continue to hold their head high in the North Shore.