As the news broke today that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office stripped the Washington Redskins of their trademarks of their name, the first thing I thought of was not really the Washington sports team, but my high school. I attended Arcadia High School in Arcadia, CA—just outside of Los Angeles, in the San Gabriel Valley. And we were the Arcadia Apaches.
Our mascot, the Apache, is directly derived from the Southwest Native American Apachean tribes, and our school logo/seal/branding predominantly is made up of an illustration of an Apache (see image for reference).
I’ve never been comfortable with calling myself an “Apache” (but no shit, I’m not Native American so I shouldn’t be calling myself an Apache), but as we can see at the end of this lip dub video made this year at Arcadia High, when asked “who are we,” students are quick and proud to shout, “APACHES!”
Arcadia High School, it’s time to seriously reevaluate what message you are sending to your students about cultural appropriation—and racism—by continuing to use the Apache as our school mascot.
This is not the first time someone has questioned Arcadia High’s use of the “Apache” mascot. In the late 90s, Native American Activists threatened to sue the school over the use of the Apache as a mascot, taking offense also to the Pow Wow as the title of the school newspaper. Arcadia High unfortunately decided to continue using the “Apache” as our school mascot.
Today, Arcadia High sponsors an annual charity drive that benefits the White Mountain Apaches, as if that’s enough for it to be okay to continue using the “Apache” as the school mascot. It’s not. Let’s not even think about the fact that using the name of a Native American tribe is offensive to real people, but that this is a clear example of appropriating something that does not belong to this community. Even if members of the community in Arcadia have Native American ancestry are okay with this usage, it does not make it okay.
It’s amazing to me that with the publicity and attention the Washington “Redskins” have been receiving as of late, this conversation has not yet begun. It’s decades too late, and we need to right this relic of a past time.
Other schools also use the “Apache” as their school mascot. Vallejo High School in Northern California was one of them, until their school district recently voted to change the mascot from the “Apache,” agreeing “that the name mocks Native Americans.”
The Vallejo City Unified School District made the right move. It’s time for Arcadia High, and the Arcadia Unified School District, to do the same.
To all those who will say that we use the identity of the Apache “respectfully” or “to honor” the Native American tribe, I call bullshit. That’s just a thinly veiled excuse for inexcusable ignorance.
Former Arcadia High School principal Martin Plourde is quoted to have said, ”The reason we keep Apaches as a symbol is that, when you look at these people, who have been through so much… despite it all, they are standing proud… What better symbol for our kids can there be?”
It is not okay to take someone’s identity from them because it makes for a nice “symbol,” nor is it okay to “repay” the White Mountain Apaches with charity.
It’s 2014. Let’s get with the times.