AIM North West Ex. Director, Dr. T. Thunder Child, Addresses JSUSD Education Board

Dr. T. Thunder Child American Indian Movement (AIM) 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.

In Spirit,
Dr. T Thunder Child Ex. Director
AIM North West

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Indian People Organizing for Change Demands the Removal of High School Mascot


corrina_gould-214x300
Photo credit: http://www.datacenter.org/?attachment_id=8542Native 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).

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.

To see Corrina’s letter in its entirety, please visit:

https://www.facebook.com/save.sacredsites.1/posts/1679065752374182

For More Information, please visit the following links:

http://ipocshellmoundwalk.homestead.com/

 

John Swett Unified School District, “Our Children are Warriors”

Molly Batchelder – SSPRIT Ally

 

On February 11, 2015, Sacred Sites Protection and Rights of Indigenous Tribes (SSPRIT), a Vallejo based organization, advocated in partnership with The Carquinez Coalition to Change the Mascot (CCCM) to remove the Indian mascot at John Swett High School located in Crockett, CA. After a unanimous vote, John Swett Unified School District (JSUSD) removed the nearly 90 year old mascot. On February 10, 2016, John Swett Unified School District replaced the Indian mascot with Warrior. Why has JSUSD, Board of Education decided to choose Warriors as a replacement after the removal of an Indian Mascot? Why is JSUSD subjecting young people to images, and ideas that promote, and support war, and violence in school?

As a United States Army Veteran (Desert Shield/Desert Storm), trained in methods of war, I am disappointed that an institution of education would promote violence in connection with their schools. Personally, I would never want my daughter or grandchildren to glorify the horrors of violence, mutilation, and death promoted by war through a school mascot (or by any other means for that matter). The root of the word Warrior is “War”. A Warrior is someone who is engaged in conflict carried on by force of arms. War is a state, or period of armed hostility. War is active military operations, and is a method, or principle of waging armed conflict. War is the soldier’s business, and involves being active in hostility, contention, and conflict. Weapons training, and tactical defense training are not to be taken lightly, as they are used for killing during war. Why then would JSUSD feel a mascot associated with violence is acceptable? Young people are especially vulnerable to the effects of exposure to violence. Young people are subjected to violence, and violent imagery in the home, the community, the media, and in schools. Whether the violence is real, based on real events, or fictional; the effects on youth include reduced sensitivity toward others, being more fearful, and behaving more aggressively. Some school districts across the United States have resolutions forbidding violent imagery in connection to their schools. Ironically, the JSUSD Board’s resolution forbidding violent imagery within the school district, recognizes the ways that violence negatively impa
cts youth; yet the school board contradicted their own resolution when electing warriors as a mascot.

JSUSD Board Member, Deborah Brandon has publicly defended the warrior mascot stating, “Our children are warriors. Anyone can be a warrior”. These statements were made by Deborah Brandon on more than one occasion during JSUSD board meetings in 2015. This is problematic because it goes against the districts resolution, and also contradicts the districts missions and beliefs. JSUSD Mission & Beliefs can be found on the district’s website, and states “John Swett Unified School District’s dedicated professionals work for the good of all students, focusing on promoting higher student achievement by motivating, and challenging every student to strive enthusiastically toward academic, and personal success. All Students can, and must experience success in their own learning.” “Professional staff must put forth high quality
effort, employ multiple teaching strategies, and work as a team to educate their students. Professional staff, and students are responsible for the quality of the educational experience, and all will be accountable for it. All people deserve to be treated with respect, and are expected to treat all others with respect. Partnerships among professional staff, students, parents, and community are most effective when positive attitudes are sought, encouraged, and shared”.

Replacing an Indian Mascot with Warrior is not an example of treating others with respect and is not an example of accountability; Warrior mascots are often associated or depicted as Native American. Depicting Warriors as the John Swett’s High School is synonymous with the legacy JSUSD has created with the former John Swett High School Indian mascot. John Swett High School yearbooks, student newsletters, school team sporting events, cheerleading, scoreboards, and uniforms have all promoted, and upheld this legacy. JSUSD yearbooks over the decades have included the term “Warrior” in relation to their Indian Mascot, and is documented online. For this reason alone, JSUSD should abandon Warriors as a mascot. Sacred Sites Protection and Rights of Indigenous Tribes will continue to advocate for the removal of Native American mascots/Institutionalized racism, and mascots that promote violence in schools.

For More Information please contact: Sacred Sites Protection Sites Protection and Rights of Indigenous Tribes at: sspandrit@gmail.com or visit our Facebook Page: Save Sacredsites. 

Audio Recordings of JSUSD Board of Education meetings are available online. To listen to the February 10th meeting, click here.  The mascot issue starts at 2:03:10.

The next JSUSD meeting is on March 9, 2016 at 6:30pm. (Please refer to the above link for the districts office location) SSPRIT will be in attendance, addressing the Warrior mascot. The public is welcome to attend. SSPRIT will be providing a teach-out prior to the board meeting. For more information about the teach-out, please email: sspandrit@gmail.com or visit http://www.facebook.com/save.sacredsites.1

Molly Batchelder and reflections on attending a highschool with an Indian Mascot

Molly Batchelder – SSPRIT Ally

My name me playing indianis Molly Batchelder.  I am blessed to be a member of Sacred Sites Protection and Rights of Indigenous Tribes.  And over the past two years I have been involved in the mascot decolonization work at John Swett High School, my alma mater.

This was me, playing Indian, when I was in high school.  This was me, isolating the Native American experience as a 16 year old white girl:  with faux buckskin and face paint, and tomahawk, likely performing the gestures we’ve all learned from Saturday morning cartoons and from playing cowboys and Indians.  We all know these gestures.  And this behavior was reinforced as acceptable, not only by mass media and pop culture, but by my learning institution.  I was encouraged to actually BE an Indian.  While opposing teams held up banners at football games that read: “Kill the Indians”; “Scalp the Indians.”

After the John Swett Education board voted unanimously this past March to retire their Indian mascot, one former student messaged me and said, “Great, thanks to you no one will even remember that Indians existed.” To which I replied, “Do you think Native Americans are extinct?”

The lines of fact and fiction are so blurred because of these mascots. For so many people in this country, the Indian I played in high school has actually replaced real human beings.  Please, I ask you to think about the implications when the dominant culture gets to control the image of another culture.  And then teaches its children to use the horrors of forgotten genocide as common sports banter.

I am not an Indian. I am European American, with a whole history of stories of my own and lines of ancestors that have contributed to the person I am today.  I have a responsibility grow and develop my own image.  Indigenous peoples have a responsibility to do the same with theirs, however they choose.  And we all have a responsibility to see each other as human.

This is an exciting time.  We are all now part of a mass movement where we have a chance to recognize the truth about these mascots and bring in together a new era of education and awareness for our future generations.   Please, join us.