School Indian mascot fate at Hart Union High School district council – Daily News


The “Indians” have been the mascot of Hart High School in Santa Clarita since 1945 when the school was founded.

But the change could happen on Wednesday, July 14. After months of debate among students, administrators, parents, staff and Native American advocacy groups, the William S. Hart Union High School District board of trustees is expected to make a decision to determine the fate of the mascot.

The Hart High School logo features a Native American theme. Photo file

In previous discussions, the school board has leaned towards removing the nickname. School board member Joe Messina was the only member to support his retention.

“Based on the last conversation and the last vote count it was 4-1,” Messina said. “I imagine it’s probably going to come down around the same lines this time around.”

School board president Cherise Moore has said in previous meetings that she believes the Indian mascot is offensive and should be removed.

“I have very mixed feelings,” said Linda Storli, a school board member, who was a teacher at Canyon High before becoming a board member – who has two children who graduated from Hart High and a stepson who is a teacher at school.

“The part of me that never wants someone to feel uncomfortable bumps into the part of me that loves tradition,” she said.

Members of the Retire Hart’s Mascot movement and the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians have attended school board meetings in recent months to lobby for the mascot’s retirement. An online petition has gathered nearly 20,000 signatures calling for the removal of the mascot.

The Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians has posted on its website that it supports the removal, as well as the retirement and replacement of race-based mascots, symbols, images and personality by schools, colleges, universities, sports teams and organizations north of Los Angeles County.

The Tataviam Native American Tribe is an indigenous people of the Santa Clarita Valley, where Hart High School is located.

A majority of students and staff at Hart High support retaining the Indian mascot, officials said. In polls conducted by the school in April, 49% of Hart High students voted to keep the Indian mascot, 26% opposed. In the same poll, 50% of Hart High staff voted to keep the Indian mascot, while 38% opposed. Students, 1,343 out of 2,100 registered, responded to surveys distributed on campus. Of the approximately 180 school staff, 123 responded online to the survey.

Messina said he sided with community members who want to keep the Indian mascot.

“The community as a whole wants to keep it,” Messina said. “The comments are about respecting the warrior, not just because he’s an Indian and just because we’ve always had him. It’s # 1. # 2, I’m sick of this “culture of cancellation” that says you have to go if it offends two people.

Julia Estrada, leader of the Retire Hart’s Mascot movement, said she and her group will continue to speak out against the mascot until she disappears.

“It’s a very big day next Wednesday,” she said.

“They must listen to the indigenous voices and our local indigenous people, the Fernandeño Tataviam tribal summit, who have spoken and blatantly declared that they are denouncing this mascot,” Estrada said. “And I think they have an obligation to finally commit to removing the mascot. It has been mentioned about three times in the past 30 years. This is by no means a new problem. I think they have an obligation to commit to withdrawing it at this next meeting.

Some supporters of mascots such as “Indians”, “Braves” or “Chiefs” want to pay homage to Native American culture. But many schools and teams have opted for change in recent years as opposition to these mascots has grown.

Many Native American themed mascots have been removed by southern California high schools:

  • The Los Angeles Unified School District voted to remove Native American mascots in 1997;
  • Birmingham High School in Van Nuys changed their mascot from the Braves to the Patriots in 1998;
  • Alemany High School in Mission Hills, a private Catholic school that was established in 1956, changed its mascot from Indians to Warriors in 2006; and
  • In December, the student body at John Burroughs High School in Burbank voted to change their mascot, dropping the Indian nickname and going for the Bears.

The NFL team in Washington, DC, have stopped using a term that has been considered offensive for decades as a mascot, opting instead for the “Washington Football Team” for the past two seasons. The team expects to announce a new nickname in the coming months. However, professional sports teams such as the Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians of Major League Baseball, the Chicago Blackhawks of the National Hockey League and the Kansas City Chiefs of the NFL still retain Indian nicknames.

The “R-word,” the Washington team’s former nickname, has been banned by the state of California for use in public schools. Then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed the law, launched in 2017, which includes “a ban on derogatory and discriminatory names or team names or mascots in public schools and a ban on using any derogatory term that distinguishes the Native American community “.

Colorado and Nevada state lawmakers voted last month to ban public schools from adopting Native American mascots, according to The Hill. Washington state adopted a similar measure earlier this year; Maine took the same step in 2019. Connecticut and Massachusetts are expected to consider similar initiatives this year.

The debate over these mascots is not new. Efforts to oppose Native American mascots date back to the 1960s. Stanford University became the “cardinal” in 1975, dropping the nickname Indians. And an investigation by the American Psychological Association in 2005 prompted the organization to call for the removal of these mascots and team themes, citing “the damaging effects of racial stereotypes and inaccurate racial representations, including particularly damaging effects. Native American sports mascots on the development of social identity and self-esteem of young American Indians.

“We are seeing this wave of removal of Native American mascots nationwide,” Estrada said. “I would like this to continue. I am part of a group that is helping this continue nationwide. It comes down to the obligation. We see these states removing their mascots, and we see local and neighboring high schools, like John Burroughs, removing their Indian mascot. It becomes local and it becomes a problem of proximity. There are fewer excuses not to change it.

wednesday meeting

On Wednesday, the Hart Union High School District Board of Directors meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the district offices at 21380 Center Pointe Parkway in Santa Clarita. The district has posted this page detailing information and past meetings / discussions on the topic.

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