BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer
Sequoia High School in Redwood City is dropping the Cherokees as their mascot following a 17-year-long debate.
The Sequoia Union High School District board voted Wednesday (April 17) to change the school’s mascot to the Ravens.
The issue began in 2002 when a group of students and teachers lobbied to change the mascot, saying it was offensive to have an ethnic group as the school’s mascot. At the time, members of the school’s alumni association said they were getting “hate mail” saying the Cherokee mascot was racist, according to a Redwood City Daily News article.
In 2002, the school board decided to change the school’s mascot to a raven but keep the Cherokee name attached to the school’s sports teams.
The raven name was selected in a student election. The runner-up was the Scorpions.
On the Sequoia campus yesterday, students had opinions about the mascot change.
Student Sofia Mendez told the Post that she feels like everything at the school is Cherokee. She said there is a painting in the school’s weight room of what looks like a Cherokee, and that there are other things around the school that are Cherokee-based and not ravens.
Mendez said it was unoriginal to switch to the ravens.
Students Melanie Preito and Yesenia Ramirez each said that if people are offended by the Cherokee name, then it should be changed.
“I don’t see what the big deal is, if the relatives of these people are offended, then we need to respect them and change it,” Ramirez said.
But student David Huerta questioned the need for a change.
“If it’s been (the mascot) the whole time, then what’s the difference if people aren’t saying anything about it?” Huerta said.
It was unclear whether the Cherokee Nation, based in Tennessee, had complained to the school district.
The only correspondence that the Post was able to find between the Cherokee Nation and anyone from Sequoia was from December 2000, when Cherokee Principal Chief Chad Smith wrote a letter to a Redwood City resident about the issue.
“Sports teams use an American Indian mascot to project an image that is savage and warrior-like, as portrayed in stereotypical imagery of the Hollywood movie. The Cherokee people do not perceive conceptual symbolism or symbolic behavior (e.g.,the tomahawk chop or stereotypical drumming or chanting) as respectful of our culture. There is no honor is seeing our culture being trivialized and exploited,” Smith wrote in his letter.
In December 2018, a student-run club called Ready for Ravens, brought the issue back up. They presented to the board a petition signed by more than 600 students and teachers in favor of changing the name. They also presented to the board the results from a survey in which 754 out of 1,209 students and teachers said the Cherokee name ought to be retired. Another 289 respondents didn’t have an opinion on the name and 215 said the name ought to stay the same.
Alumni wanted to keep the Cherokee
But some alumni of Sequoia have voiced opposition to the change. In an open letter to the school board, Daniel Calic defended the Cherokee name, saying it was chosen to “honor and respect a great Native American tribe.”
He said the move to change the name is an indictment of the people who chose the name, who are no longer alive to defend their decisions.
In his letter, Calic also called upon those who want the name changed to “prove there is malice or disrespect” aimed toward the Cherokee by having the sports teams named after the tribe.
Ultimately, the board voted in favor of the students “as they are the current stewards of Sequoia High School,” board president Georgia Jack said in a statement.