Student viewsto be soughton DN mascot

Del Norte High School's student senators left the first meeting of the year Thursday with a mission - to get as much input as possible on what the school's new mascot should be.

After 15 years of controversy came to a head at recent School Board meetings earlier this month and in August, student leaders are more resolved than ever to choose a mascot everyone can rally behind, finally bringing the issue to a close.

"You guys hold the key to get the word out to your classes," said faculty advisor Alison Eckart. "We have a say here. It's going to happen through this Student Senate."

During the meeting, Student Body President Joren Adams and vice president Eileen Rivera gave their colleagues a history of the mascot controversy. Adams wore a blue sweatshirt emblazoned with a helmeted Spartan figure alongside the Warrior name - a mascot idea from a local graphic artist. He and Rivera also showed their colleagues a coat-of-arms logo Adams designed as another possible mascot icon idea.

Students could choose to recommend keeping the Warrior name and coming up with a Warrior icon, or even dropping the Warrior name entirely and perhaps even changing school colors, Adams and Rivera said. But Adams noted there would be a cost associated with rebranding the school.

Both students also contended that any argument in favor of bringing back the Warrior Indian head icon that was eliminated in 1998 was moot. They said that regardless of the student senators' opinions and feelings on the issue, their job only was to get input from their peers. The students have until the end of January to come up with a new mascot recommendation, according to a School Board direction.

"If we had a mascot it would create a more spirited atmosphere," Rivera said.

Del Norte High School has been without a mascot icon since June 1998 when officials decided to keep the Warrior name but drop the Indian head icon, which had depicted a chief with full headdress. In September 1998 the high school formed a committee and sought community input to come up with a new mascot icon, but that never happened.

In April 1999 the School Board voted to recommend that the Del Norte High School icon be changed to something not associated with American Indians.

The current acceptable logos are a flaming W, DN, or the shape of Del Norte County with DN over it, Adams told his peers Thursday.

The lack of a mascot is "a tragedy," Adams said. "We don't have pride. High school teaches you to have pride in other things. It affects everything."

The mascot issue was thrust back into the spotlight at the School Board's Aug. 9 and Sept. 13 meetings when a parent and members of the Smith River Rancheria complained about Del Norte Youth Football's use of an Indian head icon on its duffle bags.

Instead of a chief with full headdress this icon depicted a warrior with a single feather. In response to the initial complaints, DNYF reclaimed the bags, but a private citizen purchased them and distributed them back to the football players. The league isn't affiliated with the school district, but plays on school grounds and has used the Warrior name for three years.

At the Sept. 13 meeting, although youth football representatives argued initially in favor of bringing the Warrior head back. When they were told that wouldn't happen due to the School Board's policy, they stated they would support the high school's choice as long as the community had adequate input.

While students are coming up with a new mascot recommendation, some members of the Smith River Rancheria hope to bring a bill before the Legislature banning Native American mascots statewide. Rancheria member Sheryl Steinruck said she and other members are in the process of drafting information for the bill and hope to present the idea at the California Indian Conference at California State University San Marcos on Oct. 5-6.

If approved, such a bill would force schools to retire any kind of Native American symbol, Steinruck said, including war bonnets, a head with braids and even feathers, tomahawks and spears.

The Smith River Rancheria Tribal Council has also showed its support. In the past the Council adopted two resolutions asking for the retirement of all Native American mascots, Steinruck said. The Council has also offered to pay for the plane fare and hotel stays for those going to the California Indian Conference next week, she said.

The state Legislature passed a similar bill during Arnold Schwarzenegger's first term as governor, said California Indian Education Association president Clyde Hodge. Schwarzenegger vetoed that bill. The association has fought the use of Native American mascots since the 1960s and 1970s when the unofficial mascot for Stanford University changed from the Indians to the Cardinal, Hodge said.

At the high school, Adams and Rivera said they felt like some members of the community was fighting them every time they tried to suggest an alternative to the Warrior head.

"The student body has never been able to get the issue resolved," Adams said. "It was like hitting a brick wall."

Rivera added that they are happy now they have the support of Del Norte Youth Football. But even if they could bring the Warrior head back, Adams, Rivera and student parliamentarian Dalton Alexandre said they wouldn't want to.

"Personally I've seen how the head makes students feel," Adams said. "It is alienating members at the high school. School should be about making everyone feel comfortable."

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