The story of the Casper College mascot, Heyoka, starts with long-time Casper College physical science instructor Norm Weis. Weis wanted a mascot to represent the young community college nestled in the foothills of Casper Mountain. He chose the name Heyoka, a Native American word for medicine man. The Heyoka, among other things, was to watch over his tribe and send away evil spirits. Casper College's Heyoka was hoped to create the kind of spirit that would send away evil teams. In the fall of 1958, Weis found the perfect student to fit the bill as the first Heyoka, Leo Sanchez, who he observed singing and dancing and generally hamming it up. The two worked on the original costume, which consisted of rabbit fur stretched over a football helmet, epoxy eyes and a fiberglass beak. The nearly 50 feathers adorning the wings were all hand sewn by the two men. The goal was for Native American authenticity. Using the costume as a model in 1995, Casper College alumnus and sculptor, Chris Navarro crafted "Spirit of the Thunderbird" a bronze statue now on the front lawn of the college.
Since that time there have been three Heyokas. That first one was retired many years ago.
Heyoka was replaced with "Thunderbird," in 2004. The last Heyoka costume is now on display in the lobby of the "Swede" Erickson Thunderbird Gym.