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.
Dr. T Thunder Child Ex. Director
AIM North West