My name is Julia Estrada and I am an extremely involved student and 2020 graduate of Hart High School. I am writing in regard to the need to retire Hart High School’s outdated and offensive Indian mascot. I truly believe that now is an appropriate time to consider making this change, given that we are amidst a shift in history where young people are challenging the deep-rooted racism found in everyday society.
Here is a link to the petition that has reignited this conversation. Please consider taking a look at it: http://chng.it/Hd8XmF4YTm
The Indian mascot turns an existing culture into something that is fun to casually imitate during school events. I have been to Hart sporting events where students make “Indian” noises, imitate stereotypical Indian actions, and proudly wear headdresses. These actions taken by students at our school are extremely offensive to the genuine culture behind those traditions, and it is ignorant of Hart staff and administration to ignore and allow these actions to continue.
Native American culture is not a costume and it is offensive to allow and encourage students to wear Native American regalia. This culture and its people have been criticized, marginalized and mocked for the very attire Hart allows its students and “tribe leaders” to wear. Luckily, those students are able to take off that headdress at the end of a football game, but unfortunately Native Americans everywhere still face oppression for their culture that they can’t just remove.
The Native American headdress is a symbol of strength and bravery. According to Tribal Trade, headdresses were worn “by the most powerful and influential members among a tribe.” Headdresses are not an accessory that anyone is allowed to wear. If the administration truly understood the meaning and value of a headdress, students would not be allowed to wear them at school events, let alone toss them among a crowd. This action devalues the symbolism surrounding the headdress and amplifies the ignorance of Hart High students and administration.
Regardless of the positive intention of this mascot, administration and students need to understand that Native American culture has endured countless acts of genocide and racism, and continues to be neglected by today’s society. By keeping this mascot, our school is telling all Native American students (like myself) that it is OK for their culture to be mocked and imitated, and for Native Americans to be displayed as a caricature or fictional character. Along with being Native American, I am also Mexican; therefore if you would feel uncomfortable with any other existing culture being a mascot (Example: the “Mexicans”), you understand the offense that the Indian mascot carries.
Given the values of Hart High and Santa Clarita, we need to have these uncomfortable discussions. Please recognize the unavoidable negative ties that our mascot has. Please hear and listen to students and their negative experiences that have been linked to this mascot. To alumni, know that it is OK to change the mascot but still hold pride in your high school. Know that your alma mater would be making a long-overdue and responsible decision. Our school is constantly chanting “alive with pride!” but it is extremely difficult to hold this pride when our mascot is unequivocally offensive to students, families and members of our community.