Twelve, 50-pound black sandbags painted red with white lettering spell out CHANGE IT BACK, spanning the front of the Millers’ Aurora Street in the heart of Lancaster.
Homemade signs that read “Change It Back” are in the front windows. One is propped up on a small pile of bricks at the end of the path leading to the porch.
What is “it?”
It would be the Redskins – the former name and mascot of the Lancaster School District dumped over a year ago because many consider it a derogatory slur for Native Americans. The school’s athletic teams are now known as the Lancaster Legends and the mascot, a knight in armor.
But for the Millers and others in the community, they’ll never be anything but the Redskins.
And while many Redskins supporters wear stickers and T-shirts proclaiming “Once a Redskin, Always a Redskin,” the Millers have put their devotion to the old name on display all over the front of their property.
A 15-foot high Redskins flag flies in the lawn, with a Buffalo Bills flag opposite it. Next to the front door is an “I Love the Redskins” sign with a teepee and red and black painted arrows framing it. And on the door are two more Change It Back signs with a sticker proclaiming, “Once a Redskin, Always a Redskin ... and I vote!” The Redskins decorations can’t be missed, even in the mix of Hawaiian-themed palm tree garden decorations and a handmade mobile of adult-sized flip flop sandals.
The Millers’ home has become the talk of the town. Many have nicknamed it the “Redskin Shrine.” Others call it the “Redskin Museum.” Family patriarch Dale Miller, a 1986 Lancaster alumnus, describes it as the “Change It Back” home.
The entire five-member family is into it, and passionate about making a statement and keeping the spirit alive. It is the house Dale Miller grew up in.
Call it what you want, the Miller home makes a bold statement. And a big one it is.
And one that shows no sign of going away.
“We are keeping the fight going, and not taking anything down until the next election. A lot say we’re ‘the Change It Back house’ people. Brenda and Kelly honk when they drive by,” said Dale Miller, referring to Brenda Christopher and Kelly Depczynski, elected to the board a year ago on the pro-Redskins agenda.
The Millers’ decorating mission began in May 2015, just two months after the controversial mascot change led to the Legends, a new school nickname selected by students. And it has continued with vigor, even after the school board election this spring bombed for the Redskins group, when two pro-administration candidates overwhelmingly won board seats, maintaining the board majority.
Miller’s oldest child, Dakota, 15, who will be a sophomore at Lancaster High in the fall, has worn Redskins clothing every day since March 2015. He has 14 items of Redskin clothing, mostly T-shirts, but also two jackets and a sweatshirt that he rotates wearing. The only times he doesn’t wear the clothing is when he sleeps, swims or does yard work. His younger siblings aren’t quite as passionate although Trinity, 11, regularly wears “Change It Back” shirts. Brother Blaze, 13, occasionally wears Redskins clothing.
“He’s keeping the fight alive at school,” Dale Miller said of Dakota. “He has seniors who call him RED to keep the fight going. The students are not over it.”
Neither are the adults, based on comments and behavior at board meetings that have become hostile over the past year.
Dakota is as dedicated to the cause as his father, hoping the mascot name may one day return to be the Redskins. Father and son are regular fixtures at School Board meetings since the mascot issue erupted. Both hope that at least two more board members will be elected next May who back the Redskin agenda.
“The board could force a community vote if we get the right people on the board,” said Dakota Miller, who has swum on the varsity swim team and played school volleyball in middle school. “I haven’t worn any other normal shirt since March 2015 because I want to make a statement that it’s not going away. The students aren’t over it.”
His mother, Rosa Miller, a Springville graduate, couldn’t be more proud of her son’s convictions. “I’m proud of my son because this is something he believes in, and he’s going through the channels. He’s not pushing it in anybody’s face,” she said.
As for the house, Rosa and Dale Miller say it’s their right to decorate the way they want and that they don’t force their Redskins support on anyone. “We’re just a normal family, doing our own thing. We’re not fanatics,” Rosa Miller said. “We can support whomever we want. It’s America.”
“People come from neighborhood streets to take pictures of our home, and say, ‘It’s not over,’” Dakota Miller said.
Rosa Miller said her home is “not a shrine” or over the top.
“If somebody has a problem with it, I don’t care,” she said. “I have a right to put what I want on my lawn, and I ‘know’ my house. And it’s not just Redskin. It’s also Hawaiian. If people call it the Redskin house, that’s OK. But it’s not a museum.”
What do the neighbors think?
There are a few vacant homes nearby. Two neighbors aren’t letting the Redskins smorgasbord get to them. In fact, one more or less embraces it and says her daughters who graduated a few years ago were upset to learn the mascot changed.
“I think it’s great if that’s something they support,” said neighbor Lynn Wasikowski, who lives directly across the street from the Millers. “They can keep it going. I don’t mind. I think it’s cute they’re so passionate about it.”
Next-door neighbor Richard Harvey couldn’t care less. “My kids are out of high school, and to me, it’s over and done with,” said Harvey. “I have no opinion.”
Last fall, Village Hall saw an issue with the quantity and size of the signs on their lawn and clamped down.
The Millers had five larger signs and some had been nailed to telephone poles. Several smaller signs were posted on the front lawn. “What they had, was to the point of obnoxious” said Shawn M. Marshall, village code enforcement officer. The village received three or four complaints from residents as decorating escalated. “When they began nailing signs to poles, that’s really when I laid the hammer down and said ‘We’re done with some of this stuff.’ Now, it’s much more subdued.”
The village allows one sign up to 6-square-feet in size.
The Millers have no plans to dismantle their current array of Redskins decorations. “We have no plans to take it down. We’re going for the next election,” Dale Miller said. “Give it a year, and things will change again.”
Three board seats – those of Board President Patrick Uhteg, Marie McKay and Michael Sage – are up for election next May. All the Redskins supporters would have to do is win two seats and the current 5-2 board majority could flip to 4-3.
Despite this spring’s failed attempt to elect more pro-Redskins members to the school board, the Miller family is holding firm.
Like other Redskin allies, the Miller family is upset the mascot issue never faced a community vote, but was decided by the board. “They didn’t give us a say,” Dale Miller said. “I would have liked it put to a community vote.”