- Sensitive issue of race stirred again
Published: June 5, 2003
By Laura Brown
Triplicate staff writer
Del Norte High School's abandoned mascot is stirring up controversy again.
This time, an image resembling one that caused tension within the school
system five years ago caught some students and faculty off guard when it
appeared in a newly released yearbook.
Five students in the Native American Club found the outdated line drawing a
stereotypical portrayal of tribal people and voiced their complaints to the
The exaggerated Hollywood-style interpretation depicts a scantily clad
muscular Plains Indian, arms crossed over chest, wearing an eagle-feather
"It was shocking that the old mascot was being used," said Loren Bommelyn,
Indian mascots are still commonplace around the country, and in California,
more than 120 schools continue to use them.
The California State Assembly will vote on AB 858, the California Racial
Mascots Act today. The legislation is geared toward removing racially
discriminatory school and team mascots.
"Native Americans are the only group of living people used as mascots,"
said Andre Cramblit, operations director of Northern California Indian
Del Norte High School Principal Jan Moorehouse said the recent yearbook
issue has been resolved. After meeting with the offended students,
Moorehouse agreed to reimburse them the $60 they paid for the annuals.
Moorehouse said the subject is still a painful one for students and staff
who remember the controversy over Del Norte High School's wooden mascot,
which was taken down in the late 1990s. The figure, blackened by fire, is
now housed at the historical society.
The mascot was at the center of an emotional debate that lasted nine
months. A committee decided the icon, which had been in place for at least
20 years, could be considered disrespectful to people and their religion.
While the redwood carving was eventually removed from the school, the name
Warriors' remained but is no longer tied to American Indians.
Carl Woods, who is serving in his second year as yearbook advisor, said
deadlines and a limited supply of photographs meant that the student staff
relied heavily on clip art. It was an innocent mistake made by a student
struggling to get the yearbook ready for print in less than three months,
Woods said he contacted Bommelyn by phone beforehand, telling him of the
yearbook staff's intention to run the pen-and-ink drawing.
"I wasn't concerned about using it, because I figured he would have
contacted me if he had any problems," said Woods.
Bommelyn said he doesn't recall being told about the use of the Plains
Indian caricature. He says he remembers telling Woods of some Tolowa
basketry patterns that would make suitable art. He said he never saw the
images used until yearbooks were being passed around by students in the
Bommelyn said he is satisfied with the way the administration handled the
In a statement, Moorehouse compares this year's grievances with those from
students who find their name misspelled or the placement of an embarrassing
"In spite of best efforts, not everyone is pleased with the product built
by the yearbook staff of any school in any year," reads a statement from
Moorehouse suggested including a brief history of the mascot controversy
within student handbooks each year to remind them of this delicate issue.
Native American children make up 13 percent of the school system in Del
Jim McQuillen, head of the American Indian Education Program and principal
of Margaret Keating School, says this is a time of transition, and
education is the key to moving beyond biased views.
"I think we all need ongoing education of those that are culturally
different, and that includes American Indians," he said. "There continues
to be a need for education, not just for students, but staff, too.
This August, a three-day workshop, "Local Connections," will be conducted
for teachers. The course will bring to light sensitive issues for local
tribes, and includes a visit to ancient village sites.
COMMUNICATION IS THE KEY TO THE FUTURE OF AMERICAN INDIANS/NATIVE
AMERICANS/ALASKAN NATIVES & HAWAIIAN ISLANDERS. For news of interest to
Natives go to: