Re-‘Pete’ History: The Pioneer Pete Situation

Mrs. Buck poses with Pioneer Pete in front of the Lux Truck

A familiar face appears throughout many pictures taken at Western Reserve Academy traditions: Pioneer Pete. From the Gauntlet to graduation, students have been indoctrinated with Pioneer Pete’s intense spirit. Pioneer Pete’s recent disappearance has come with a communal desire for clarification.

Several days before the Hudson Labor Day Parade, Student Council requested Pioneer Pete’s appearance to express their school spirit. To Landon Allis’s ’23 surprise, Athletic Director Pete Hutchins informed him that Pioneer Pete was retired. After pursuing further clarification, it was later revealed that the physical costume was in disrepair.

The loss of Pioneer Pete has ignited conversation about what embodies the Pioneer spirit: what does it mean to be one? How did such a prominent campus character become broken and forgotten?

In an interview, Head of School Suzanne Walker Buck defined what Pioneer meant to her: “The notion of being a Pioneer can mean being an innovator,” although for others “it can bring up connotations of colonization.” What Pioneer means to the WRA community is a question that requires conversation; how we materialize a Pioneer is equally as important as the word’s connotation.

Mrs. Buck views our school mascot “with a raccoon hat and with a hatchet” as “a little… strange.” With WRA’s aim for a more diverse community—seen through the recent addition of the DEI office—it is understandable that the mascot’s possibly insensitive connotation has come into question.

From the greatest competitions to WRA’s annual graduation, Pioneer Pete has cheered students on for generations; it is now in the community’s hands to re-evaluate the means through which WRA’s values should be expressed. The recent awareness of DEI in the mainstream media and the many decades of WRA tradition must be considered before recreating a mascot.

Although Pioneer Pete has represented WRA for nearly two centuries, the increased need for cultural sensitivity has presented the opportunity to explore other faces for the Pioneers of WRA. A face for DEI, a face that respects community, a face that acknowledges WRA history or a familiar face if deemed appropriate. Pioneers are trailblazers who strive for light and truth: does Pioneer Pete appropriately embody the Pioneer identity?

Benjamin Sindell ’22

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