Someone will say I am an interloper for being a West Ranch High School graduate touching on this subject. Despite that, The Proclaimer’s focus on the Hart High School mascot saga requires a few final notes.
The overarching point, with respect to the outcome, is that some form of honor has been restored. Amending the Hart High constitution to honor the descendants of Santa Clarita’s first inhabitants, the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians, stands as the definition of how schools can honor indigenous people without caricatures or misappropriated iconography like feathers or teepees.
Despite wishes for greater education about indigenous history and culture, my personal awareness of the subject was not amplified going to SCV schools; conversely, this certainly is a topic that requires greater attention and understanding, rather than a talking point to keep outdated iconography that’s not reflective whatsoever of Tataviam culture or history.
Consider it a subject I am sensitive to. While other kids wrote book reports on Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Shirley Temple, I chose the Apache leader Geronimo. What defines heroism better than being among the last leaders of resistance to westward expansion in the 19th century? There’s a reason why he’s called an American legend. Moments in history from the Massacre at Sand Creek in 1864, the rise of abusive boarding schools like in Carlisle, Pa., and the Siege at Wounded Knee in 1973 are among many instances of real history that are avoided or virtually scrubbed from history classrooms – even in colleges.
Invest in learning that history if you are going to be true to your word about education. Ignorance for the sake of patriotism, a la the “1776 Report,” makes for pretty poor history. To use the full John Adams quote without resorting to cliche: “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
Now the subject of mascots, as previous reporting accurately stated, is not uniformly disliked by indigenous people across the country. Like all demographics in the United States, there will always be varying viewpoints. Making any one group out to be a pedestal is poor electioneering, and it’s flagrantly committed by those in both parties. But consider the words of those striving for greater equality rather than political one-upmanship and material-based identity. Former leader of the American Indian Movement Russell Means (Lakota) said in a 1994 interview that retiring mascots is the beginning of a change in policy that makes indigenous people look like human beings.
“I’m not anyone’s mascot,” he said, “and I am America’s conscience, and that’s what they don’t want to look at.”
Amending the Hart High constitution to retire the mascot and to show basic decency to the descendants of the first people of SCV is the true definition of honor. I can hear calls of “the Fernandeño Tataviam aren’t federally recognized, so…” Such semantics are the typical progression in delegitimizing indigenous voices and tribal sovereignty. In a historic lens, the Fernandeño Tataviam’s involvement has been invaluable to this entire dialogue.
Last note. I want to praise the efforts of students looking to make a difference with their school’s iconography. Standing up to school bureaucracy is not a simple life, dissimilar from the fantasies of being student body president and running on “free lunch for all.” This took the efforts of several students, past and present, who in turn brought the might of human decency to the table. Students – among you, the Retire Hart’s Mascot group – accomplished this with proper education that changed hearts and minds.
To Means’ point, it took America’s conscience to make this one step forward; there’s no subjective doubt to his premise regarding the placement of the first Americans within modern society. Every generation, that conscience shines a humane face intended to heal. Ignore claims of division. Look upon our history and despair.
Disclaimer: The above was written by Ryan Mancini and does NOT reflect the opinion of Radio Free Santa Clarita.