Why Whitman College Says Missionaries Offensive Even Though Their College Is Named After...

April 13, 2016Apr 13, 2016

Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington has dropped the name of their mascot and is in the process of changing the name of their student newspaper because the two use "offensive," "non-inclusive" terms.


What are those terms? Missionaries and pioneers.

According to Campus Reform, Whitman College is dropping the word "missionaries" from their mascot name because, as a campus group said, the term "'Missionaries' has religious imagery that is not appropriate for a secular college. Bottom line — the mascot is offensive to many members of the Whitman community because it can be interpreted as honoring the imperialistic policies and actions of the western movement in North America in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In addition, as indicated by Native American students and alumni responding to the survey, it is also offensive to members of the Native American cultures whose ancestors were the victims of that movement,”

Whitman president Kathleen Murray went further, saying that the "missionaries" mascot was not "appropriately inclusive and welcoming."

It's an odd move from a college that was originally a seminary, was named after Christian missionaries Dr. Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, and is founded on the Whitman's mission site in the region where they were murdered by local a Native American tribe in what came to be known as the Whitman Massacre.

Also strange is the student newspaper's desire to change their name from "The Pioneer" to something that doesn't celebrate "the arrival of white invaders," according to the newspaper's editor.

A commentator to the editor's post about the name changes sardonically pointed out that the college may be eliminating its association to "missionaries" and "pioneers" yet is still named after pioneering missionaries.