What is a Reiver?

People new to Iowa Western often ask: What is a Reiver anyway?

The simple answer: River Pirate. But there’s so much more behind our mascot:

The earliest use of the word was in the Middle Ages when uncivilized English and Scottish tribesmen battled each other and pillaged people around them. These robbers, or reivers, lived in a mountainous area where both future nations would have a common border extending from the Irish Sea on the west to the North Sea on the east. These arsonists, kidnappers, and murderers had representatives from various social strata, from impoverished farmers to men who resided in castles. These brigands used the rivers in their area to terrorize humanity for 350 years through the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and her Scottish successor, James, when Renaissance ideals slowly civilized the ruffians.

Locally, the term river pirate was designated for those who attacked Missouri River vessels as 19th-century explorers and settlers used the river to carry various goods to and from the new territory. Based on the etymology of the word, reiver, it was a fitting term to label the Missouri River plunderers.

The reiver became associated with Iowa Western Community College when the college was just beginning to develop as an institution of higher education. In response to the quest for a mascot in the 1972-1973 academic year, Student Senate Treasurer, Robert Batt, suggested the river pirate or reiver. Gerald Stommes, Student Activities Coordinator, submitted the suggested mascot name to the student body who voted to accept it. In addition, students voted the College’s colors should be Ice Blue and Silver, which, in the 1980s became the now familiar Royal Blue and White.

The Iowa Western Reiver mascot, like the official college colors, has continued to evolve through the decades, withstanding skeptical questions about its applicability and origin. When, however, Iowa and Nebraska residents and those prospective students from many other states and countries learn of the Reiver’s history, they can see some reasons even today of its aptness. Of course, a sports mascot should be fierce as a tiger, cyclone, or pirate! Certainly, the area around the College, like that border area between England and Scotland, is influenced by both rugged terrain and rivers. Lastly, contemporary society still must contend with robbers and ruffians, but Iowa Western provides the Renaissance or rebirth of learning for our area.