On October 21, 2015, Sacred Sites Protection and Rights of Indigenous Tribes (SSPRIT), addressed Napa Valley Unified School District (NVUSD) requesting the removal of the Indian Mascot at Napa High School. In response NVUSD Superintendent, Patrick Sweeney announced the district would create a task force made up of people with different perspectives. The task force or mascot committee, is comprised of Napa High School Alumni, NVUSD staff, administrators, student leaders, local Native American advocates and SSPRIT. For several months the committee has deliberated the appropriateness of the Indian Mascot and will be recommending the mascots removal. The committee recommendation will be shared with the NVUSD’s Board of Education during the districts monthly board meeting.
SSPRIT has successfully advocated for removals of Native American Mascots in public schools and has provided continuing education for students and professional development for educators in districts undergoing Native American mascot transitions. Advised by SSPRIT in February of 2014, Vallejo City Unified School District voted unanimously to remove the Apache mascot at Vallejo High School; consequently removing the Chieftans mascot at Solano Middle School. In February of 2015, John Swett Unified School District (JSUSD) in Crockett, CA, removed the Indian mascot at John Swett High School under advisement from SSPRIT.
In November of 2014, SSPRIT joined the National Campaign to remove Native American mascots in professional sports & media; participating in a protest at Levi Stadium when the San Francisco 49ers played against The Washington Team. In response to the National Campaign, several prominent National media outlets said they would refuse to refer to the team by the epithet it uses for a mascot. The State of California has been applauded for the passage of landmark legislation regarding Native American mascots in public schools. The California Racial Mascots Act – AB30, prohibits public schools from using the term R-dskins as a school mascot or nickname. AB-30 passed in September of 2015. The use of racially derogatory or discriminatory mascots in California public schools is anti-ethical to the California school mission of providing an equal education to all.
Napa Valley Unified School District has an opportunity to take responsible action regarding the district’s policy language against anti-bullying and discrimination. Athletic team names, mascots, and nicknames including school teams, are discriminatory in singling out the Native American community for the derision to which these mascots are often subjected; contributing to the marginalization of First Nations Peoples. Support the removal of the Indian Mascot at Napa High School! Join SSPRIT on April 6, 2017 for the announcement of The Mascot Committee recommendation and for the subsequent vote by NVUSD Board of Education on Thursday, April 20, 2017 @ 7 pm.
The Longest Walk 5.2 arrives for ceremony at Sacred Site Sogorea Te located in Vallejo, CA; one of many Native American sacred sites that will be visited during the walk. “This spiritual walk and run is dedicated to calling an end to drug abuse and domestic violence which greatly effects masses of all peoples on this continent. Longest Walks are held to bring attention to issues that directly affect Native Americans; this year, we will embark on the second leg of the Longest Walk 5 or The Longest Walk 5.2, which encompasses the middle part of the United States,” stated Bobby Wallace, National Chief of The Longest Walk 5. The Longest Walk 5.2 begins in San Francisco, Ca and will be traveling to Standing Rock, North Dakota; continuing to Washington DC.
Sacred Sites Protection and Rights of Indigenous Tribes (SSPRIT), Founding Executive Director, Norman “Wounded Knee” DeOcampo (Miwok), will be taking part in the Longest Walk 5.2. For many years Wounded Knee has advocated for the protection of sacred site Sogorea Te, located in the Glen Cove area of Vallejo. A spiritual occupation of the Native American Sacred Burial Site lasted 109 days, beginning in April of 2011 and ending in August of 2011. At the time of the spiritual occupation, Wounded Knee stated, “It’s time for Indigenous peoples across this country to take a stand and say ‘no more’ to desecrating the sacred sites of our ancestors,” “No more digging up our ancestors and putting them in garbage cans and in garbage bags. “No more digging up our ancestors and putting them in museums and leaving them in cardboard boxes and gym lockers, taking their artifacts and their sacred objects.” “UC Berkeley has 13,000 remains stored in boxes; some of these remains came from Sogorea Te.” The spiritual occupation of Sogorea Te ended with a cultural easement; a landmark decision that had never been done within city limits or with a park district within a city.
Along with desecration of their sacred sites, Native American populations continue to disproportionately suffer from social and health disparities, having great impacts on livelihood and future generations. Historically, Native Americans have persistently experienced trauma due to US policies of genocide, assimilation and colonialism resulting in historical trauma. Due to the harsh effects of historical trauma, Native American populations across the country continue to fight the repercussions of these acts. National research has shown that childhood trauma is an underlying cause of many disparities including; substance abuse, domestic violence, diabetes, heart disease and death. Trauma prevention, trauma care and the repercussions of trauma must be addressed at community and systematic levels. Statistics consistently show that social, economic and health disparities continue to exist in every tribal community across the Nation and must not be ignored. Tribal communities remain strong and resilient in many other ways such as upholding the tribal values, traditions, language and ceremonies which are still prevalent today. The role of these strengths must be fully understood and valued. Cultural and systematic solutions should be woven together to meet many national disparities among tribal nations.
The First Longest Walk was organized in 1978 to bring attention to 11 bills pending in U.S. Congress. The Native Americans Equal Opportunity Act would have eliminated all treaties between the U.S. government and tribal nations and was an attempt to reverse the course of federal Indian policy. It called for the abrogation of all treaties. However, the bill did not pass, largely due to the attention brought by the walk from California to Washington D.C. The Longest Walk 2, “All Life is Sacred” was organized in 2008 to protect sacred sites on tribal land throughout Indian country. The Longest Walk 3, “Reversing Diabetes” was organized in 2011 to address the diabetes epidemic throughout Indian country. Native Americans suffer the highest rates of diabetes, followed by African Americans. The Longest Walk 4 was a reverse walk held in 2014. It began in Washington, D.C., and ended on Alcatraz Island. The purpose of the Longest Walk 4 was to educate Americans about the history of the many tribal removals of First Nations Peoples from their homelands due to government policy. The Longest Walk 5 covered 3,600 miles, and traveled through California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, before ending in Washington, D.C. on July 15, 2016. Phase 2 of The Longest Walk or The Longest Walk 5.2, begins in San Francisco on Sunday, February 12, 2017 and ends in Washington D.C. on July 15, 2017.
SSPRIT invites the public to join us as we gather to welcome The Longest Walkers of The Longest Walk 5.2 at Sogorea Te for ceremony; offering prayers to the ancestors buried at the sacred site. Dennis Banks, Co-Founder of The American Indian Movement, Bobby Wallace, National – Chief of The Longest Walk 5, Karkin Chochenyo Ohlone Woman Corrina Gould and Norman “Wounded Knee” DeOcampo will be in attendance. Wounded Knee is the only person who will have participated in all five Longest Walks. This event takes place on Monday, February 13, 2017 at Noon.
There will be a brief discussion, followed by a pot luck. Please bring your own eating utensils (plate, cup, cutlery), chair and pot luck item. Monetary donations for The Longest Walk 5.2 are greatly appreciated!
In response to the Napa Valley Register opinion piece, “Indian name is not racist” (Jan. 6).
The author makes the claim the word “Indian” is not racist. The issue here is not the word Indian, it is the continuance of American Indians being used as mascots and the stereotypical images and behaviors that insult us.
The word Indians, Redskins, Warriors, Braves or Chiefs that use our images as mascots disrespect our culture and make a mockery of our headdresses, our regalia and our dances. These things are sacred to us. Indian Mascots treat our history with contempt when a high school football team holds up a banner during a football game saying “Indians go home in a Trail of Tears.” This public school just ridiculed one of the most vicious atrocities in U.S. history.
The privilege of controlling our history, our image, makes the public schools no better than the forced boarding schools of native children that attempted to destroy our culture.
Is this what we want to teach in our public schools – that it is acceptable to have domination over another people’s cultural heritage? This long-standing use of native people as mascots force our native youth to see themselves as tokens with no value. Such practices have become so institutionalized that it becomes difficult to recognize this racism for what it is, and by tolerating these demeaning stereotypes in our schools, we desensitize generations of children.
I do not know of any native people or native organizations that use the word “Indian” define the word as racist, even though historically we are well aware the word is a misnomer, mistakenly put upon us by Columbus when he was “discovered” lost on our continent.
Indian mascots do nothing to teach the complexity of our history, nor do they connect with the ongoing injustices we face today. In protecting and preserving our religious freedom, sacred sites, ancient burial grounds, land and water rights. With the current situation happening in North Dakota, where the Standing Rock Sioux tribe is being threatened by hyper-militarized police violence and brutality simply for protecting their right to clean water, how can anyone in this day and age think that Indian mascots “honor” us?
It is time to end this “tradition;” our youth deserve much better. Let us all demand better and say no to institutional injustice and inhumane symbolism. Change the name, change the mascot.
Kim DeOcampo, Tuolumne Mewuk, Houma-Choctaw Nations
Sacred Sites Protection and Rights of Indigenous Tribes (SSPRIT)
…..For several decades, Native Americans have stated they do not feel honored by Indian mascots; this includes a national campaign to remove Indian mascots, images, and stereotypes in media, sports and schools. There are approximately 185 schools in California that have Native American Mascots; the most prevalent being warriors and the second being Indians.
Rather than honoring First Nations Peoples, these images perpetuate stereotypes, promote cultural appropriation and keep Native Americans as a people of the past; this negates the contemporary relevance of First Nations Peoples. The use of racially derogatory or discriminatory mascots, or nicknames in California public schools is anti-ethical to the California school mission of providing an equal education to all. Athletic team names, mascots, and nicknames that have been used and remain in use by other teams, including school teams, are discriminatory in singling out the Native American community for the derision to which mascots or nicknames are often subjected.
The (National) Native American Mascot debate dates back to 1968. The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) launched a campaign to address stereotypes of Native Peoples in popular culture and media, as well as in sports. Furthermore, The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights states, “Many individuals and organizations interested and experienced in human relations, including the United States Commission on Civil Rights, have concluded that the use of Native American images and names in school sports is a barrier to equality and understanding, and that all residents of the United States would benefit from the discontinuance of their use.”
Over the last fifty years, hundreds of tribal nations, national and regional tribal organizations, civil rights organizations, school boards, sports teams, sports & media personalities, and individuals have called for the end to harmful “Indian” mascots.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states: 1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the dignity and diversity of their cultures, traditions, histories and aspirations which shall be appropriately reflected in education and public information. 2. States shall take effective measures, in consultation and cooperation with the indigenous peoples concerned, to combat prejudice and eliminate discrimination and to promote tolerance, understanding and good relations among indigenous peoples and all other segments of society.
Also, Article 26 – Paragraph 2 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality, and to the strengthening of respect for human rights, and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance, and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.”
Mascots are derisive/meant to be ridiculed; Napa Valley Unified School Districts policy language regarding anti-bullying and discrimination supports the removal of the Napa High School Indian Mascot; Maintaining respect of different cultural values, attitudes, fairness and dignity, demonstrating respect for human rights and non-discrimination.
The National Field Office of The American Indian Movement proudly announces, The Longest Walk 5.2, “Calling an End to Drug Abuse and Domestic Violence.” Dennis Banks, National Field Director and Co-Founder of The American Indian Movement issued a three phase – 3 year walk across America in 2016. Dennis Banks stated, “Because of the extremely high rate of abuse, suicides, drug related deaths and destruction, which is at a pandemic stage, our mission is to cross this continent on foot; seeking cultural and spiritual solutions to end drug abuse and domestic violence.”
Dennis Banks, Nowa Cumig, is an enrolled member of the Red Lake Band of Anishinaabe Peoples. Dennis has played a historical role as the co-founder of the American Indian Movement (AIM), community leader and activist for over 50 years. In 1978, he assisted in organizing the first Longest Walk, “Trail of Broken Treaties”. Tribal Nations gathered and marched from San Francisco to Washington DC with the purpose of bringing awareness to the unjust and un-lawful actions taking place against Native American Peoples across the Nation. Dennis Banks and many Native American Community Leaders have spent their lifetime organizing, changing and bringing awareness to specific issues effecting the vitality and longevity of Tribal Nations.
The Longest Walk 2, 3 and 4 were held from 2008 to 2014. The Longest Walk 5, 2016, covered 3,600 miles, and traveled through California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, before ending in Washington, DC. Phase 2 of the Longest Walk 5, also known as The Longest Walk 5.2 will begin in San Francisco, CA and will be arriving in Washington DC on July 15th, 2017.
Earlier this week, I spoke with Bobby Wallace, National Chief of The Longest Walk 5, and he stated “This spiritual walk and run is dedicated to calling an end to drug abuse and domestic violence which greatly effects masses of all peoples on this continent. Longest Walks are held to bring attention to issues that directly affect Native Americans; this year, we will embark on the second leg of the Longest Walk 5 or The Longest Walk 5.2, which encompasses the middle part of the United States. The Longest Walk 5.2 will begin at 9 am on Sunday, February 12, 2017 next to The Warming Hut Café’ located at 983 Marin Drive, San Francisco, CA 94129. The Longest Walk will be traveling to Standing Rock, North Dakota; continuing to Washington D.C.
Native American populations continue to disproportionately suffer from social and health disparities, having great impacts on livelihood and future generations. Historically, Native Americans have persistently experienced trauma due to US policies of genocide, assimilation and colonialism resulting in historical trauma.
Due to the harsh effects of historical trauma, Native American populations across the country continue to fight the repercussions of these acts. National research has shown that childhood trauma is an underlying cause of many disparities including; substance abuse, domestic violence, diabetes, heart disease and death. Trauma prevention, trauma care and the repercussions of trauma must be addressed at community and systematic levels. Statistics consistently show that social, economic and health disparities continue to exist in every tribal community across the Nation and must not be ignored. Tribal communities remain strong and resilient in many other ways such as upholding the tribal values, traditions, language and ceremonies which are still prevalent today. The role of these strengths must be fully understood and valued. Cultural and systematic solutions should be woven together to meet many national disparities among tribal nations.
“We have approximately 30 dedicated walkers, 5-10 full time runners, and many people who will be joining in as we reach communities along the way. The Longest Walk 5.2 will have 8-10 Leaders, a full time cook, 3 trucks, 2 cars as support vehicles and a storage trailer for necessary supplies. This walk will take 165 days to complete covering approximately 3,946 miles. Your support is greatly appreciated!” – Bobby Wallace.
Please help to save the West Berkeley Shellmound by sending hard copies of the letters, and emails to ShAllen@cityofberkeley.info or email@example.com (best to cc both). Kindly consider personalizing your letter (while still reflecting the key points about opposing the EIR). The snail mail address is at the top of the template letter below. Comments must be received by January 12th. Thank you for your support!
Attn: Shannon Allen
City of Berkeley City Planning
1947 Center Street, 2nd Floor
Berkeley, CA 94704
Dear Ms. Allen and Berkeley City Planners:
I am writing to express my deep concerns about the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) regarding 1900 Fourth Street. The site was designated as a City of Berkeley Landmark # 227 by the Landmarks Commission. It was also listed in the California State Registry of Historic Places, as well as determined to be eligible for the National Registry of Historic places. The West Berkeley Shellmound site, completely encompassing the proposed 1900 Fourth Street site, is known to be the oldest bayside settlement in the San Francisco Bay Area, approximately 5700 years old. It is the true birthplace of Berkeley. It continues to be of utmost significance as a ceremonial center to the Ohlone people today.
The draft EIR is heavily disputed, as revealed by massive community opposition voiced at the Dec 1st meeting of the Berkeley Landmark Preservation Committee. There is significant controversy surrounding the methodology used to establish the archaeological reports and there has not been adequate peer review of the data in the draft EIR. Past excavations in and around the proposed site have uncovered human burials and undisturbed cultural remains. The report completely fails to address remains specifically documented in the EIR for the adjacent Grocery Outlet site that is part of the same Landmark Shellmound site. This constitutes a significant oversight and inaccuracy in the methodology of the 1900 Fourth Street EIR.
Furthermore, there has not been adequate tribal consultation in the EIR’s preparation. The primary consultant had multiple conflicts of interest, while a second Ohlone person repeatedly requesting inclusion was not consulted for the EIR. This manner of consultation with Ohlone people seems like a mere token gesture given the importance of this site to members of the Ohlone community.
Resolution No. 67,353-NS of the City of Berkeley “Honor Berkeley Shellmound Indigenous Sacred Site, UC Berkeley Return Ancestral Remains to Ohlone People” states in part: “BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that free, prior, and informed consent of the Ohlone and other indigenous peoples of the region be integral to any alteration planning for the Berkeley Shellmound sacred site, in accordance with the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, and calls upon all parties to follow the principles of the Declaration with respect to the West Berkeley Shellmound site.”
On page 67, the Draft Environmental Impact Report states, “Consultation with the Ohlone Indian Tribe, conducted pursuant to AB52, was completed for the Project and mitigation measures are recommended, as appropriate.” Unfortunately, this is only one tribal entity and the resolution very clearly states that it should also include other indigenous people of the region; the Confederated Villages of Lisjan, for example, should be given the same formal consultation process as Ohlone Tribe Inc. It is also unclear weather or not the City of Berkeley followed SB18 which states that when a city or county adopts or amends their general plan the Tribes from the area must be consulted, whether federally recognized or not. The City of Berkeley has amended their housing development plan numerous times since the law was put into affect in 2005, and there is no proof that Tribes were included in consultation prior to amending this part of the general plan.
At this point, the only official recognition of this sacred shellmound site is the series of murals and the small plaque in the parking lot under the freeway. Certainly the City of Berkeley would benefit from truly meaningful public acknowledgement of its Ohlone past, present, and future by working with local Ohlone people to develop a major memorial and educational site at 1900 4th Street.
This is a clear opportunity for the City of Berkeley to follow through on its resolutions to honor and protect sacred sites and the rights of Indigenous peoples. I implore Berkeley to take a stand against this construction that will benefit wealthy developers at the expense of the five thousand years of history. Reject the EIR and embrace the No Plan Alternative!
Dr. T. Thunder Child American Indian Movement North West- Executive Director
To: Board of Directors JSUSD
Re: Native American Indian pejorative mascot.
Hello my name is Dr. T Thunder Child Ph. D. I am an enrolled member of the Chumash Nation I am Hunkpapa Lakota and Chumash by blood. I grew up in Western Contra Costa County and received my bachelors and my masters from SFSU. I am long time resident of the area. I am writing this letter in the capacity of- Executive Director of American Indian Movement North West. AIM North West stands firmly with Sacred Sites Protection and Rights of Indigenous Tribes (SSPRIT) on the mascot issue. It has recently been brought to my attention that John Swett School District Board of Directors who had previously in a unanimous voice acknowledged the removal of the mascot- which pejoratively depicts Native Americans-it a has also unfortunately been brought to my attention that the board decided back peddle on this very historic and important decision. We applauded your conscious move forward in removing the hyper racialized Native American stereotyped mascot from your school banner. In kind i astonished by your decision to revert to an even older mascot name-“The Warriors”. This name change is akin to changing the name from “the negros” to “spear chucker”, which we could all agree is no change at all.
While these names- demoralizing Africans in America are extremely offensive. And, no one would ever even consider “honoring” our African American relatives by naming schools after them in this way –it is some how extremely acceptable to employ historically weighted phrases and iconography depicting Native American Indians in that same dehumanizing light. This practice of dehumanizing Native American Indians needs to come to an end. It is antiquated and beneath the values of our democracy. We could all agree- that these phrases and iconographies our unacceptable to the moral fiber of our country. A country whose constitution ensures that “all men are created equal” these dehumanizing caricatures symbolically construct Native American Indians in antithetical terms. We can also all agree that our civility and humanity should be held to a higher standard. In forming our “more perfect union”- that higher standard ought to as a -foundation of our civility -of our humanity- ensure empathy perception and innerstanding towards our countrymen. These words and iconography exercise non of that- they are offensive- hurtful and demeaning. It was for this reason that Assembly Bill 30 (AB 30) the California Racial Mascots Act prohibiting public schools from using these terms as a school or athletic team name; mascot, or nickname was introduced and passed. The spirit of the bill is to institutionalize this higher standard so as to ensue equitable representation of all Peoples.
California is the state with the largest Native American Indian population in the country. This practice of institutionalized racism within our schools should not be allowed to continue. It’s time for John Swett to do the right thing and out right end this practice.
Thank you very much for your time I know you will do the only conscionable thing –giving a proper name that will rightly honor your prestigious school.
Dr. T Thunder Child Ex. Director
AIM North West
Native American organization; Indian People Organizing for Change (IPOC), Co-Founder and Lead Organizer , Corrina Gould demands the removal of the warrior mascot at John Swett High school in Crockett, CA. IPOC is an organization that educates the public on issues affecting First Nations Peoples. IPOC promotes awareness and educates the public about the desecration of Native American sacred sites, and Shellmound desecration in the greater Bay Area.
Sacred Sites Protection and Rights of Indigenous Tribes (SSPRIT) advocated for the removal of the Indian mascot, addressing John Swett Unified School District (JSUSD) in February of 2014. IPOC supported SSPRIT’s advocacy, providing a statement for the JSUSD Board of Education (BOE). SSPRIT is an organization that educates members of the community through seminars, workshops, discussion groups, and participation, to eliminate discrimination, and prejudice against Indigenous Peoples. SSPRIT’s goal is to educate the public about the moral and legal obligations to preserve and protect the sacred sites and places, and to uphold the civil, and human rights of all Indigenous Peoples.
In her correspondence to JSUSD BOE, IPOC, Co-Founder Corrina Gould stated, “Our people have heard many of the excuses of why naming a team after a race of people is supposed to be in some way honoring them. Our people decided that this is not a way of celebrating who we are, but rather it continues the devastation of dehumanizing us; a continued cultural genocide. School districts should strive to teach its students the real history of the space they now occupy on Ohlone territory”.
On February 11, 2015, one year after SSPRIT’s advocacy began, JSUSD BOE voted unanimously to remove the Indian mascot. JSUSD BOE, and SSPRIT agreed, the Indian mascot removal could provide a teachable moment. The district approved a SSPRIT mascot discourse for students. SSPRIT facilitated the discourse at John Swett High School; all students, grades 9-12. The discourse addressed cultural relevancy & appropriate mascot replacements. At this time, the warrior was a popular mascot replacement choice within the JSUSD community; including, several, but not all JSUSD BOE members, students, parents, and alumni. SSPRIT advised the board that Warrior mascots often portray images of violence, weapons of violence, and that warrior mascots are most often depicted as Native American. There are 85 schools in California that use Warrior as their mascot; each is depicted as Native American. Prior to the mascot discourse, JSUSD BOE created a Resolution forbidding the use of violent imagery, and forms of violence in connection to their schools.
Despite JSUSD’s Resolution, and despite the Native American Cultural Educational Consulting provided by SSPRIT, On February 15, 2016, JSUSD BOE voted to replace the Indian Mascot with Warrior. In response to JSUSD’s decision, IPOC, Lead Organizer, Corrina Gould states, “I am disappointed that in this time of great change, the work that has been put into working together as different communities, to educate one another, to see different perspectives; to honor one another with respect; has been cast aside. I am demanding that the school board reassess their decision to change the mascot name to warriors. I am asking that this Board do what is ethically, and morally right, to be the leaders that our children can look up to, to make the right decision, and to retract the last vote”. SSPRIT will be addressing the JSUSD Warrior Mascot at the districts next school board meeting on Wednesday, March 9, 2016.
SSPRIT is hosting a Teach-Out, and Meet & Greet prior to the JSUSD BOE meeting from 4:00- 5:30pm. The Teach-Out is located at Lefty Gomez Recreational Center, 470 Parker Avenue, Rodeo, CA. Snacks and refreshments will be made available. The JSUSD, BOE meeting is located next door at 400 Parker Avenue, and begins at 6: 30pm.
To see Corrina’s letter in its entirety, please visit:
SSPRIT has remained relatively distant from the Crockett Facebook pages, only to alert community members about upcoming events regarding the Indian mascot issue. However, in preparation for the school board meeting this Wednesday, March 9th (where the board will revisit their unethical vote which named Warrior as the new school mascot) we have been posting memes exposing the correlations between Warrior mascots and settler-colonist patterns of behavior.
After this meme was posted, the conversation took an ugly turn, where one pro-Warrior mascot community member, Emmett Davis, told Indigenous educator, Makhapo Blu Wakpa, to “Shoot your arrows elsewhere…we shot back before and kicked your ass, remember? History repeats itself.” He continued “yeah, thats right Wackpa or whatever your savage name is…sure…”.
That wasn’t all. See for yourself. The entire conversation was captured:
This is an example of the racist backlash that will arise over and over again when Indigenous Peoples voice concerns about the appropriateness of the Warrior mascot. So the question becomes, why does JSUSD want to play with this kind of fire?
On February 11, 2015, the John Swett Unified School District Board unanimously passed their historic vote to retire the Indian mascot. On January 13, 2016, in the presence of Sacred Sites Protection and Rights of Indigenous Tribes (SSPRIT), who has been working closely with the district on the mascot transition, the Board voted 3-2 (James Delgadillo and Deborah Brandon opposed) to abandon the “Warrior” option as a replacement. This was primarily due to the concerns with its association with violence, and the Board’s unanimously adopted resolution “rejecting all forms of human violence or violent imagery depicting human violence in association with our school”. But also, there was hesitation in choosing another potentially offensive mascot, another human mascot, or even a living mascot for that matter.
Yet on February 10th, 2016, the same Board participated in an unethical vote which named “Warrior” as the replacement. Not only was the vote in violation of their previous agreement to keep Warrior out of the final student poll, it also neglected to consider the high school students’ final polling choice between Raptors, Wildcats, Rockets, Tide, and Thunder.
So how does a Board one day make a decision, and the very next month so effortlessly disrespect their very own process? What is the point of unanimously passing a progressive resolution to protect our youth from violent imagery when there was never really any intention to adhere to the principals set forth? Do Board members simply vote as they see the cards falling, so as to avoid potential embarrassment from making the “wrong” decision? And what example is being set for the students when they see community leaders do whatever they want at the expense of their own word?
There have been many mistakes made in the mascot decolonization process, highlighting the lack of leadership (both with the board and administration) which has been evident throughout. After failure to initially include an Indigenous perspective in the mascot transition, ill-conceived student and community polls, a stalled student vote, and ongoing board meeting deliberations, it was finally decided that the students would receive education from Native Americans before their final vote. They would be provided perspective on the reasons for the change, and alternatives to status quo thinking for new mascot selection. Indigenous educators, SSPRIT Executive Director Dr. Makha Blu Wakpa and Secretary Angelheart, would receive payment for these services. Board member Brian Colombo even offered this from his individual stipend, to demonstrate how valuable this education was.
Earlier last June, Board Member Brandon stated, “I do not feel it is appropriate for us to make their (the students) choice”, clearly expressing her view on the importance of student agency. Yet on February 10th, she did make their choice. With the help of a few community members reminding the Board about upcoming school bond issues and threatening their favor, Brandon suddenly pushed Warrior through with a 3-1 vote (Colombo opposed); Board President Jerry Parsons was absent. (Click here to listen to audio recording of the meeting. Mascot issues begins at 2:03:10) This vote was conducted without regard for the mascot discourse the students had just received.
Why did the board approve the mascot transition consultation services of SSPRIT only to disregard the potential educational impacts they may have had in the end? It seems to suggest that significant social justice issues are valued simply for their pomp and circumstance. That the retirement of the Indian was achieved out of a “moral obligation”, rather than a honest desire towards reconciliation of past and present institutional policies that have worked to harm Indigenous Peoples and all People of Color. The example that is set is that power and privilege takes what it wants in the end, regardless.
The appropriateness of the Warrior mascot, especially on the heels of the Indian, has been hotly debated for a year. The Warrior found strong favor with a few vocal Crockett community members, the same folks who were steadfastly opposed to the Indian’s removal. This correlation begs the question as to whether the Warrior could be, to some, a simple rebranding of the Indian, especially when there is a lack of recognition for the reasons the change occurred in the first place.
As with any important decision, there must be consideration of the potentially harmful ramifications that could result from that decision. So with the selection of a new school mascot, we have to acknowledge the long oppressive history concerning the use of Native American mascots in schools, and the “Warrior” designation is a part of that. Tria Blu Wakpa, UC Berkeley PhD candidate and SSPRIT Public Relations Officer, states, “In the assimilative environments of Indian boarding schools, educators largely restricted ideas about Indianness to arts and athletics. This reflects derogatory ideas about the value of Native American ways of knowing, which were supposedly appropriate on the court, but not in the classroom. In U.S. Schools, the name ‘Warriors’ has often be synonymous with ‘Indians’.”
Equally problematic with the connection between Warrior and Native Peoples is its connection with war. With a simple Google search, one can find pages upon pages of evidence that violence, domination, and patriarchy cannot be teased out of our association with Warrior, no matter how noble or “peaceful” the intentions may be. So the question becomes why, then, do we want to refer to our children as warriors? In this world devastated by war, when people are desperately fleeing their homes and walking across countries with their children in arm, when one mass shooting happens every day in this country and are becoming more and more rampant in our schools, why do we want to initiate our most vulnerable onto our path of self-destruction?
But all debate regarding the appropriateness of “Warrior” aside, the JSUSD Board does need to answer for the violations of its own protocol to regain the trust of its community. And in the end, if Warrior is kept as John Swett High School’s new mascot, it must be acknowledged that students and community members will adopt their own imagery: violent, Native or otherwise. The administration must be required to clearly outline how it intends to control the harmful expressions that will conflict with the Board’s declarations.
John Swett Unified had a tremendous opportunity to engage in some real reconciliation work with the retiring of a racist tradition. Let’s hope there can be some real humility involved in rectifying this mess, and that the district can move beyond the simple surface level shifts and commit to meaningful institutional change.
The next JSUSD Board meeting is scheduled for March 9th at 6:30pm, 400 Parker Ave., Rodeo. Parents, students and community members are encouraged to attend, fill out speaker cards, and let your voices be heard. Each speaker has 3 minutes to address the board.
SSPRIT will be hosting a Meet&Greet March 9th before the JSUSD Board Meeting. Come join the discussion and learn about the issues surrounding human mascots! 4:00-6:00pm at Lefty Gomez Recreation Center. Refreshments will be served!