Wounded Knee DeOcampo addresses reporters on mascot issue
VALLEJO, CALIFONIA – The Vallejo City Unified School District Governing Board unanimously agreed tonight to change the Vallejo High School mascot. The vote followed nearly two hours of debate.
The Apache mascot will be officially retired at the June graduation of the Class of 2014.
This came as the result of the efforts of SSP&RIT during the past few weeks. The group stepped up the pressure with a letter and e-mail campaign to school board and city officials. Tony Gonzalaz of AIM West, Kathi Hill of the local NAACP, Foster Hicks of the Vallejo African American Alliance and Phillip Mehas of the ACLU joined forces with SSP&RIT to bring light on the racist environment being maintained in the schools.
“We are building a school district that responds to the needs of the community and want to make sure that all of our stakeholders feel honored and celebrated. Our Governing Board has been in discussion on this issue for some time, and we are proud of the way our community is setting the pace in this area,” Dr. Ramona E. Bishop, superintendent, stated,
“It will not happen overnight because there is an extreme cost involved,” Board President Hazel Wilson said. Athletic Director Mike Wilson has already been replacing equipment with simple “Vallejo” logos instead of “Vallejo Apache,” Hazel Wilson said.
The district has outlined a five-step plan to pick a new mascot, with a school design team developing ideas that will then be voted upon by staff and students. The results are scheduled to be presented to the board on January 22.
“You have made history,” said Wounded Knee DeOcampo told the five-member.
Nearly all of the 19 speakers opposed the mascot, citing the offense it causes indigenous people in part because it presumes that Native Americans are a dead culture, a people of the past and not existing in today’s society.
“I am not a relic from an antiques road show. I am a living and breathing human being, and I am not a mascot,” said Kim DeOcampo, a 1977 Hogan High School graduate.
The few speakers who wanted to keep the mascot said it honored the Apache and allowed their history to live on.
Vallejo resident Bob Smith said “I think by eliminating the Apache name, you’re kind of helping them shoot themselves in the foot, so to speak,” adding that Native Americans have an opportunity to tell their stories through the mascot.
“If we’re going to talk about honoring indigenous people, let’s make the indigenous people part of that discussion. We cannot have colonizers deciding for us what is going to honor us. Indigenous people need to be part of the dialogue,” said Jesse Johnson, a member of the Patwin Nation.
The very term “Apache” — a name given by Spanish colonizers and derived from the word “mapache,” meaning “racoon,” said San Francisco resident Wicahpiluta Candelaria of the Inde.
“I in no way have any anger toward any of the students or staff who want to keep the name. … I know it’s actually not the name of ‘Apache.’ It’s about being proud to go to Vallejo High School,” said Candelaria.
Story filed by George Wesley
Photo Courtesy of Walter Copenhaver