SSPRIT Recommends removal of The Indian mascot at Armijo High School


Tiny - Posted on 02 May 2019

Author: 
Angel Heart

We’re honoring you! This is our tradition. If we didn’t do this, you wouldn’t be remembered. Why are you being so P.C.? Don’t you have better things to do? You don’t pay taxes here!!! These are but a few statements Indigenous Peoples hear when we use our voices to say, “We don’t feel honored, remove us as your Indian mascot.”  All the while, these same folks are standing on Indian Land defending a stereotypical image as they willfully ignore the pleas and requests of actual First Nations Peoples. Why do non-natives think it is okay to tell First Nations Peoples how we should feel? We’re telling you we don’t feel honored. 

 

For over 100 years Arnijo High School has perpetuated institutionalized racism by using an Indian as their school mascot. As presented in an online poll, by Fairfield Suisun Unified School District (FSUSD) earlier this year, FSUSD asked the community if they believed using the term Indian as a mascot was/is offensive.  SSPRIT’s Executive Director Kim DeOcampo iterates, First Nations Peoples, Indigenous Peoples, Native Americans, Indians…”We ARE NOT terms!! We are living-breathing cultures of peoples with contemporary relevance and we have a voice of our own!” Racist mascots like Armijo’s Indian mascot keeps us as a peoples of the past. How can our voices be heard if we are continually dehumanized and seen as relics?

 

In late 2018, Sacred Sites Protection and Rights of Indigenous Tribes (SSPRIT), an Indigenous led organization based in Solano County, formally addressed FSUSD requesting the removal of the Indian Mascot at Armijo High School. After several meetings and addresses to the board, FSUSD’s Superintendent Kris Corey, directed the board to create a mascot advisory committee, with the goal of creating a recommendation. The mascot advisory committee comprised of district educators, administrators, students, parents, and alumni, met for several months. SSPRIT provided a presentation in which information was provided regarding civil rights and the use of First Nations Peoples as mascots. The use of Native American mascots is not about being politically correct; it’s a civil rights issue. In fact, the removal of Indian mascots in public schools is not a new one. Mascot removals date back to 1968 when The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) first began the work of addressing Indian mascots in schools, sports and media. NCAI, civil rights, and many other organizations, such as The ACLU, NAACP, The National Education Association, The American Psychological Association, The American Counseling Association, The American Sociological Association, The American Indian Movement and numerous Tribal Nations and Tribal Governments, advise against the use of Native American mascots and have resolutions in place stating, “Native American images, symbols and Native American cultural and religious traditions - as sports names, logos and mascots perpetuates racist stereotypes and undermines the self-determination and dignity of Indian People.”

 

Yet, each time we address school boards requesting the removal of Native American mascots, we are met with hostility and backlash; mostly from alumni who can’t seem to move past their high school years. Sometimes, we’re verbally threatened and at other times, we’ve been physically attacked….All while being told to “Get over it” and that “It’s just a mascot.”  If it’s just a mascot, then why can’t you JUST remove it?  And On Thursday, May 9, 2019 the FSUSD Governing School Board may vote to do JUST that! On April 25, 2019, FSUSD will hear the recommendation from the mascot committee; the recommendation will be given at the districts’ board meeting located at 2490 Hilborn Road in Fairfield, CA at 6 pm. The board will subsequently place the mascot on the agenda as an action item and will vote to either keep or remove the mascot on May 9, 2019.

 

Maintaining the Indian mascot at Armijo high school goes against district policy. According to FSUSD’s policy 7310, “The school mascot is defined as a symbol, character, name or logo. The school mascot shall demonstrate principles of justice, democracy, equality, non-discrimination, good governance, good faith, and respect for human rights.”  Civil Rights are Human Rights and The United States Commission on Civil Rights states, “The stereotyping of any racial, ethnic, religious or other groups when promoted by our public educational institutions, teaches all students that stereotyping is acceptable, a dangerous lesson in a diverse society. Schools have a responsibility to educate their students; they should not use their influence to perpetuate misrepresentations of any culture or peoples.”

 

Furthermore, The California Racial Mascot act states, “The use of racially derogatory or discriminatory school or athletic team names, mascots, or nicknames in California public schools is antithetical to the California school mission of providing an equal education to all.

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. No individual or school has a cognizable interest in retaining a racially derogatory or discriminatory school-athletic team name, mascot, or nickname.”

 

I heard a non-native say at an FSUSD school board meeting, “Why don’t we ask the Indians of THIS land what they think?” After which he and an Armijo High School alumni immediately told the board it would cost too much money to remove the Indian mascot. Did they not take in to account how much it would cost to keep it?! What is the true price of perpetuating institutionalized racism? What is the cost of teaching young people for 100 more years that it’s okay to uphold racist stereotypes? What is the true price of First Nations youth seeing their culture being used as a mockery by their entire school? And last but definitely not least, what about the voices of the original inhabitants of the land on which we are standing, The Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation? What do they think about being, so-called, “Honored”? 

 

In a letter of support provided to SSPRIT, FSUSD’s Governing School Board and The Mascot Advisory Committee, The Yocha Dehe Wintun Nations states, “Changing public perception of offensive Native American mascots and imagery has long been a focus of our Tribe. We understand this is a complicated and sensitive matter. For several years, our Tribe has been a leader in local, state and national efforts to end the use of offensive Native American mascots and imagery in sports and entertainment culture. These images promote racist, derogatory stereotypes and fail to honor the culture, religion and legacy of Native Americans in this country.”  

 

FSUSD has the opportunity to be on the right side of history. FSUSD has an opportunity to provide an educational moment. SSPRIT asks FSUSD to truly HONOR First Nations Peoples. The removal is long overdue. Remove the Indian mascot at Armijo High School! The time is here! The time is now!

 

To learn more about SSPRIT please visit: ssprit.wordpress.com or contact SSPRIT at: sspandrit@gmail.com

 

Sacred Sites Protection and Rights of Indigenous Tribes (SSPRIT) is an Indigenous led organization dedicated to protecting Native American sacred sites and to preserving the cultural and spiritual freedom of First Nations Peoples. SSPRIT advocates for the removal of Native American mascots in public schools and educates the community about Native American cultural appropriation and decolonization. 

 

Angel Heart, Quechua-Puna, is SSPRIT’s Volunteer Secretary and Public Relations Officer and has been with the organization since 2013. She has led & assisted in the removal of 5 Native American mascots to date. If successful, removal of the Armijo Indian mascot will be her 6th. Angel Heart is a Suisun City resident and has two grandchildren who attend school in the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District.  

 

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