One of the recent additions to our collection included these two mascots, both of which belonged to a student at the University of Omaha in the 1960s. The skunk is a handmade toy, which proudly bears the initials of the school, and the toy next to it is a figurine of the school’s official mascot, the Indian.
The University of Omaha was founded in 1908 as a coeducational private college by the Presbyterian Theological Seminary at Omaha. Its first class totaled just 26 students, who attended class in Redick Mansion, at 24th and Pratt St in north Omaha. Two additional buildings were added to original campus: Jacobs Hall in 1910, and Joslyn Hall in 1917. The school’s backers also renovated the nearby playground to create Saratoga Field, where the University of Omaha Football team played until 1951.
In the 1930s, the city of Omaha assumed control of the university, making it the state’s only municipal university. The University of Omaha continued to grow, eventually moving its main campus from north Omaha to a larger facility at 60th and Dodge. In 1968, it was officially folded into the state university system, becoming the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
The mascot of the school changed several times in its first years. Its first nickname was the Ponies (1912), and then became the Crimson & Black (1913-1920), the Maroons (1920-24) and the Cardinals (1924-1939).
In 1939, the mascot was changed to the Indians. The toy we’ve added to our collection is a figurine of “Owampie”, the official mascot from 1939 until 1971. During the 1960s, however, the mascot became increasingly unpopular and came under fire from Native American rights groups, who protested the use of “Indians” as racist stereotypes.
In the fall of 1971, in conjunction with homecoming festivities that year, the university held a student election to determine a new mascot. The choices included the maverick, the unicorn, the roadrunners, the demons, and also included the option to keep the current mascot. The final tally was:
Mavericks – 566
Unicorns – 515
Roadrunners – 397
Demons – 346
Indians – 0
The change was announced prior to the newly named Mavericks’ game against Northern Colorado. To inaugurate the change, a live cow was chosen as new mascot, named Victory. The name did not translate to results, though- UNO lost that game to Northern Colorado 17-22. The mascot, however, remained a winner and continues to be a beloved Omaha mascot to this day.
Johansen, Bruce E. (2006). The Native Peoples of North America: A History, Volume 1. Rutgers University Press. p. 428
Casey, Sarah (2015). Throwback Thursday: Picking a Mascot. University of Nebraska Omaha website. https://www.unomaha.edu/news/2015/08/new-mascot-mavericks-1971.php. Accessed April 6, 2020.
History of UNO Football (2020). https://omavs.com/documents/2017/6/22//Football_History.pdf?id=4701. Accessed April 6, 2020.