Mason City Mohawks become “River Hawks,” as some push back on name change | Mason City & North Iowa

Now presenting to you, the Mason City River Hawks.

The Mason City School Board approved Student Senate’s recommendation of the mascot name River Hawks at the Monday night meeting. The recommendation came from student voting on three mascot finalists on March 10. The mascot finalists were the Majors, the Monarchs and the River Hawks.

“Mohawks”, the previous mascot, was retired in November. The decision ended the use of the name at sporting events and on merchandise. Over the long term, building signs and school décor will also be scrubbed of the name, as the district assesses costs related to rebranding.

Ben Lorence

Mason City High School junior Ben Lorence talks about the student committee he served on which undertook the project to select a new mascot for the school district at the school board meeting Monday night.

Lisa Grouette

After a Dec. 6 presentation by members of the Facebook group “Mason City Mohawk Save the Name,” the name-change topic was put back on the agenda as an action item for Dec. 20. The school board upheld its original decision at that meeting.

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At the early February committee of the whole meeting, the school board discussed the plan proposed by the Mason City High School Student Senate to pick a new mascot. School board directors had similar opinions that the task of finding a new mascot should be student-led.

Student senate members Grant Bohls, Alexander Shipman, and Lainna Duncan presented to the school board the recommendation, taking turns explaining the process and how the recommendation was made. 61.4% of the student vote was for the River Hawks option.

“Ultimately, the decision is now the board’s,” Bohls said. “We have tried to do this process as fairly as we possibly could and as unbiased. While it probably wasn’t perfect, I think we can be proud of what we did.”

A couple of school board members mentioned that they supported the students’ recommendation of River Hawks. Board director Brent Seaton said it was a good opportunity for the school leaders to head up this process, but he had not taken into mind amount of pushback the Student Senate might be up against.

Student Senate - Duncan, Shipman

Student Senate members Lainna Duncan, Alexander Shipman and Grant Bohls (out of frame) go over the process they went through in gathering input from the student body and ultimately culling the suggestions to three final mascot choices during the school board meeting Monday night.

Lisa Grouette

“I probably hadn’t fully considered potential pressure associated with (selecting the next mascot), so I want to apologize for that and also thank you for taking on that pressure,” Seaton said.

Board director Katie Koehler expressed her gratitude toward the Student Senate for leading the mascot search as well, also noting some Mason City residents’ aversion to the name change.

“If adults in this community would sit down and have conversations, respectful conversations, because I have, and I know we haven’t always agreed, but I commend you and I respect you wholeheartedly for that. So thank you so much,” Koehler said.

Mason City High School Principal Dan Long was allowed to give a few words about the students who worked on the process of finding the next mascot. 

“I just wanted to take a moment again to just commend our students for what they’ve done,” Long said.

Board director Alan Steckman gave a motion to adopt the recommendation “River Hawks” as the next mascot, and board director Cindy Garza seconded the motion. All were in favor of adopting the recommendation.

A few attendees during open forum spoke about the mascot agenda item and shared sentiments that the issue should be tabled until a physical-signed copy of the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe was in possession.

“Mason City Save the Name” creator Tom Stalker was one of those residents. He also explained why he wasn’t in favor of any of the three mascot finalists, asserting that River Hawk was the name of a Native American chief in New York.

“We just need to keep the Mohawk name, and if you don’t want an Indian on there or feather or anything, use a hawk,” Stalker said. “It’s no different than River Hawk. If not, I also believe it needs to be tabled.”

The River Hawk name was actually derived from a combination of Mason City’s nickname “River City,” as well as a not to the retiring Mohawk mascot.

Along with being in favor of tabling the agenda item, resident Denise Martin told the school board to think about the costs of changing the mascot before casting a vote.

“There’s a lot of elderly in our community and a lot of disabled in our community that you guys are not taking into consideration,” Martin said. “I have not heard one thing from this board about ‘oh, maybe we should have weighed about the costs.’ You know, you’re putting this on the backs of the taxpayers.”

Mason City junior Benjamin Lorence, who took part in the mascot selection process, said he could not see any other option where the process could have been better during open forum.

“These three nicknames are the result of the hard work of our students and fair voting. I hope that you guys honor our hard work and our ideas and hopefully vote on a new mascot,” Lorence said.


Mason City High School Student Senate adviser Laura Grommesh addresses the school board during a meeting Monday night, at which a new school mascot was being adopted.

Lisa Grouette

Student Senate adviser Laura Grommesh said she had “been moved” by their actions and impressed by the stress they had handled.

“I think it is important to note that we have (student) committee members who did not want the change. But because they took the time to be part of the process, they are excited to see what comes next as well,” Grommesh said. “These leaders truly know that we can disagree or be disappointed and still work together to do what is best.”

Shipman told the School Board the Student Senate would now shift gears and begin working to plan a retirement ceremony to send off the “Mohawk” moniker and welcome in the new mascot.

Abby covers education and entertainment for the Globe Gazette. Follow her on Twitter at @MkayAbby. Email her at

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