Friday, April 25, 2008

Warriors protest vote to strip school of Native American imagery

BY COLBY FRAZIER
DAILY SOUND STAFF WRITER

Hundreds of past, current and future Carpinteria High School students took over the corners of one of the busiest intersections in town yesterday to boisterously protest the school board’s decision to strip all Native American imagery from the school.
As a hail of deafening car horns blared through the intersection of Carpinteria and Linden Avenues, the protesters, most of who were decked out in letterman jackets, jerseys and other Warrior attire waved flags and wielded signs that said, “recall.”


“The last time there were this many people on this street corner was in ’84 when the Olympic torch came through,” said Mike Damron, a former school board member who is now the president of the high school’s booster club. “It’s kind of like a tidal wave. I’ve never seen anything like this in Carpinteria.”
That tidal wave is aimed directly at the Carpinteria Unified School District Board of Education, which voted 3-2 Tuesday to rid the school of all Native American imagery. That would include the picture of an Indian warrior in headdress, which is depicted on school attire and throughout the school’s hallways. Under the vote, the school would hold on to the name Warriors, which it has had since the 1920s.
But for many, that’s not nearly enough.
Eddie Rubio, class of 1954, said his father-in-law played for the Warriors’ 1928 football team and if he were here today, he wouldn’t be happy.
“If my father-in-law was alive right now he would be right here with us,” he said. “I just hope he’s not turning over in his grave, but he probably is.”
Rubio said he attended the school board meeting and told the board just how he felt.
“I told the board I was a Warrior, I was born a Warrior and I want to die a Warrior. I don’t want [anything] to change,” he said.
Rubio said he realized the name wouldn’t be changed, but it’s the face of the Warrior he and many other protesters said they relate with, not necessarily the name.
Leslie Deardorff, a school board member who voted with the majority, said the decision to remove the “offensive” imagery wasn’t a difficult one for her to make.
“I don’t’ understand why it has to be so polarizing,” she told the Daily Sound last night “To me it’s a clear-cut issue. “We need to show compassion to every segment of our community.”
Deardorff said a group of about 25 community members brought the issue before the board during a March 11 meeting. She said Elias Matisz-Cordero, a sophomore who is part Chumash Indian, spearheaded the effort. From there, it ended up on last Tuesday’s agenda.
When Deardorff moved to Carpinteria in 1986 from the east coast, she said she was dismayed to see the school still used Native American imagery.
When asked what motivated her to vote in favor of the removal, she cited a 2001 civil rights amendment that said any “stereotypical” imagery should be removed from schools and other public places.
“Some of us got it,” she said. “Some of us have already been thinking we’re a publicly funded entity that needs to abide by these rules anyway. Sorry.”
But several publicly funded universities in the country have held onto their Native American images, including the University of Utah, where the nickname is the Utes and the school’s image is a drum and feather, almost identical to Carpinteria’s Arrow-C.
Deardorff said she’s received more than 100 e-mails in the past two days, many of which accuse her of being a “spineless idiot.”
Bryan Baker, who graduated in 1991 and played on the football team, said nearly every kid who grows up in Carpinteria is trained in elementary school to one day become a Warrior.
“To us it’s a sense of pride,” he said. “It’s not like we’re out here making fun of anybody.”
Deardorff said some of the divisiveness is due in part to the board not being more specific about what will stay and what will go. She said the board didn’t delve into specifics during the meeting because there was so much tension, but she expects the board will have to vote on the matter again at its next meeting.
Until that happens and the imagery is safe and sound, Grace Donnelly, class of 1986, who was wearing her husband’s letterman jacket yesterday, said she wouldn’t stop protesting.
“We’re just not going to stand for it,” she said. “It’s not going to go down without a fight.”

15 comments:

Jason J. Smith said...

Strange and shameful protest. Lack of sensitivity and could only be born in an overly patriotic, superstitious and overwhelmingly christian community. I wish these a crowd of youngsters such as those depicted would protest something of value such as an environmental issue or political issue. Shouldn't these active and involved citizens be marching to the White House with impeachment signs in hand. Involvement is great but really you need to get to basics and pick your protests wisely.

Slava said...

I'm not Native American, so it's hard to know whether the Carpinteria high school imagery would be seen as "offensive." Certainly it is stereotypical, but I can think of a hundred other stereotypical bits of fluff that don't keep me up at nights.
On the other hand, I despise the Santa Barbara High School icon. A "don" is either a Mafia boss, a male Spanish aristocrat with sexist and elitist traits, or, innocently enough, a college professor in the United Kingdom. I can hardly think of a a more offensive moniker, and SBHS sticks it in our face. (Last time I called the school, voicemail informed me I'd called the "home of the dons.")
SBHS has some excellent teachers, but my kids' time there was marred by the "dons" rhetoric. It would be fun to switch to "home of the contraries."

Thomas said...

The "Civil Rights Ammendment" that Deardorff refers to was actally just a recommendation from the U.S. Civil rights commission, a non-elected investigatory body with no legislative or enforceent power. In a press release the commission called for "an end to the use of Native American images and team names by non-Native schools." It is not part of our constitution, it is not the law, it is merely a statement.

Tom Grewe
CHS '82

Becki Norton said...

I consider the previous comment very misleading. It takes advantage of the fact that many local citizens are not well-versed in their basic rights. We need to start educating people with the truth. In reality, under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as well as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, this is a definite matter of discrimination and is absolutely enforceable up to the highest courts. The Civil Rights Commission (who presumably are experts on CR law) was merely interpreting these laws as they apply to the issue of Native American images and team names.

Why would CUSD want to risk a potential civil rights lawsuit? That would undoubtedly be MUCH more expensive than removing the imagery and Indians name now -- something that is long overdue anyway and which was brought to their attention previously in 1992 and not properly handled.

Any public institution that receives federal funding must have an anti-discrimination policy based on the aforementioned Civil Rights Act as well as a procedure for handling complaints or they risk losing this funding. CUSD has one printed in its handbook. Eli Cordero merely "filed" his complaint publicly. Losing this funding would also be costly for the district. Furthermore, all public school employees are sworn to uphold the Constitution and sign a document to this effect when they begin their employment. Thus far three of the CUSD board members are following the law and doing their jobs, even in the face of much resistance, ignorance, and disrespect on the part of a good number of members of the Carpinteria community. I wonder when the rest of the district will comply with these laws and policies and when the Carpinteria community will finally understand and accept this fact? This absolutely is NOT a matter for public opinion, debate, or majority rule. If such decisions were made by a majority, for example, blacks and women would still not have a right to vote and people of color would still be educated in separate schools in our country. Also, the Mexican-American students in Carpinteria would still be schooled separately from whites at Aliso School, as they were from the 1920's to 1947.

There is even another more recent state law that also applies in this case: Prop. 209 (1996), which states in part, “The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race...color, ethnicity...in the operation of...public education..."state" shall include, but not necessarily be limited to, the state itself, any city, county [or]...school district." Therefore we no longer can “honor” the Native Americans by using their names an images as mascots in California, even if we wanted to and assuming that all Native Americans actually FELT honored by it.
If a student of color were to file a complaint that they were denied enrollment in a particular course, would this be put up for public comment or debate? The answer obviously is 'no' -- it would be dealt with confidentially and quickly. The same thing applies in this case. However, the number of people it affects and the changes that must be made are much broader. The application of social justice can be uncomfortable at first, yet ultimately worth the effort made, as it contributes to a more equitable and respectful society.

Anonymous said...

I hope I never become as arrogant as Mr. Smith that I feel compelled to disparage another person for protesting an issue no matter what my personal belief on the matter might be. If Mr. Smith wants to spend his time protesting the war in Iraq, I wish him well. I never voted for the current administration so we apparently agree on something. After all, it was men and women like those in Iraq that fought and died for our freedoms including the right to protest.

The Warrior images in question represent much more to the Carpinteria community than most people can understand. Many supporters of the Warrior images are of Native American descent and it is shameful that their opinions were dismissed so easily. Before passing judgment on those protesters, perhaps Mr. Smith should become more informed about the matter.

Slava said...

Becki Norton has left a careful and articulate synopsis of the problem. But I don't think the issue is quite that straighforward. Whether the use of Native American imagery does, in fact, "discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race...color, ethnicity... " is still open to debate. The Civil Rights Commission gave a careful interpretation, but it is just that, an interpretation.
If we surf around to see what other august bodies have to say about this, we find a diversity of opinions.
For example, the "Accuracy in Academia" organization wonders why "Collegiate teams whose names and mascots are based on other ethnic and religious groups were not mentioned in the Commission's statement. Despite the barrage of criticism that has surrounded Native American symbols, mascots such as the University of Southern California's "Trojans," Notre Dame's "Fighting Irish" and South Western Louisiana University's "Rajun' Cajuns" have attracted little notice from critics of Indian-themed symbols."
And as I questioned earlier, what exactly does a "Don" represent to SBHS? Is this discrimination against leaders of organized crime?

Anonymous said...

The Board caved under legal pressure from a small group who does not support the school in the slightest. Having seen the financials and demographics of the schoold district any monies taken from the education of students is shameful. Perhaps the Chumash would prefer images of slot machines, all you can eat buffets, and referendum politics instead?

Anonymous said...

The people who get to decide if the symbols are offensive are the people the symbols refer to: Native Americans.
Respect for other people's cultures trumps school mascots and traditions any day; the students should have been taught that.
We are a country of many cultures, although for a long time we were dominated by one. That time is over. Respecting other people's cultures is a now a necessity for all Americans.
The three members of the school board have shown leadership and courage. Doing the right thing does not always make you popular.
Hats off to them.

Anonymous said...

Fine lets allow the majority of Native Americans that have been raised in Carpinteria that have been subjected to this to decide. Judging by the one's that spoke at the last board meeting and those that have stepped foward since I think you would be very surprised by the result.

You appear to be passing judgment on something you know very little about, perhaps you should have been taught better than that by now.

As for the school board, they allowed three hours of discussion and ignored the pleas of the people they were elected to represent including a number people of Native American descent that wanted to keep the name and imagery. We're talking about 80-years of tradition being debated and thrown out in three hours!

It is my sincere hope that with time, discussion and open-minds that the existing imagery can stay and be supplemented with new imagery that is acceptable to all. If not, then I say keep it as it is.

Anonymous said...

"caved under legal pressure from a small group who does not support the school in the slightest" ? Lets get the facts straight! The Cordero family is a fine group of Carpinteria school and community supporters. Eli's brother was student body president during his senior year.
Also, it is the board's responsibility to follow the law, even if the law may be unpopular. No one would want a grandstanding self-centered board member who shirked responsibility to make hard decisions.

Anonymous said...

Even the Cordero family is split on this! Check out the online petition AGAINST removing CHS imgaery: there are at least 3 members of this Matisz-Cordero family who have signed it! (Among about 2000 others). Maybe I'm wrong, the people who signed are not related, and this name is as common in the Chumash tribe as Kelly is in Ireland?

Anonymous said...

Becky Norton wants it HER way, no matter what! Citing the 14th Amendment for "discrimination" AND Prop 209 for "honoring"... by HER interpretation neither is allowed?! How about letting DEMOCRACY take its course, wherein the MAJORITY RULES despite Norton's disparaging remarks about majorities. Certainly it served her agenda when the MAJORITY of the school board voted in favor of HER cause!

Anonymous said...

Any internet petition, on any side of any issue, should be viewed as nothing more than amusement. Nothing prevents a person from entering multiple opinions, multiple times, using multiple names. Unless there is some follow-up verification, petitions are only entertainment.

hiho silver said...

It may be tempting to personalize the issue in order to try to understand it. Painting someone as a "good guy" or a "bad guy" is a tool to avoid thinking things through and seeing all sides of an issue. Describing this school board request as about only one person discounts all the people who took time to weigh in on the issue. The people of Carpinteira deserve more than cartoon simplifications of the issue.

Anonymous said...

Isn’t interesting that Amarita Salm’s High School, Hyde Park in Chicago, was known as the “Native American Indian”. Their year book is “Aitchep” and they called themselves the “Aitchep Tribe”. As recently as 2003, Amarita was not offended enough to keep her from attending her 40th reunion. In 2006, many alums were offended when the school board changed the mascot. The alums were upset that they were no longer the Indians. Guess what the school board changed the mascot to at this elite magnet school? They changed it to “Thunderbirds”! Now correct me if I am wrong, but I thought that a “Thunderbird was a mythical bird held as sacred by many American Indian People. In fact I have a small Totem that I bought in a tribal store in Oregon that has a “Thunderbird” at the top. Why is it fair for her high school to change one set of Indian Imagery for just another set of Indian Images? Also, why did Amarita fell the need to change her name from Monica to Amarita? I had many people tell me that she was an India Indian lady, but I don’t think so!