Published September 20, 2015
SANTA CLARA, UTAH— Even though Jakobe Sanden is only seven-years-old, the second-grader takes pride in his Seneca heritage. At seven, he decided he wanted to get a Mohawk-style haircut last weekend. His parents did not have a problem with it, but the school officials at Arrowhead Elementary School, in Santa Clara, Utah, that operates with the motto, “we pledge to do our best, be our best and better those around us,” sure did.
After he arrived for his studies last Monday, September 14, 2015, the Jakobe’s mother received a phone call from Sarah Harrah, principal at Arrowhead Elementary telling her to pick Jakobe up so he could get rid of the Mohawk because it is not allowed at the school.
Gary Sanden, Jackobe’s father, contacted the school to inform the principal he had no intention of getting rid of the Mohawk his son was sporting. Ms. Harrah referred Sanden to the Washington County School District’s administration offices.
Sanden was informed he had to get a letter from an American Indian tribe stating that it is a Native tradition to wear a Mohawk-style haircut. In the meantime, Jakobe had to remain in the school office so he would not “disrupt” his classroom.
The Mohawk was “possibly in violation of the school district student grooming policy” and “the student’s parents were notified of the possible violation,” stated Washington County School District’s Rex Wilkey, assistant superintendent for primary education.
Sanden reached out to his tribe, the Seneca Nation of Indians based in New York, to provide the documentation that American Indians, in fact, wear Mohawk-style haircuts.
“It is common for Seneca boys to wear a Mohawk because after years of discrimination and oppression, they are proud to share who they are,” stated William Canella, Seneca Nation Tribal Councilor, in a letter to the school district.
The letter arrived within three hours of Jakobe being sent to the office.
“It is ironic that a school named Arrowhead was so naïve about our heritage,” Canella told Native News Online. “Our boys have worn Mohawks as because it is a sign of being a warrior. This has been true generations.”
The letter proved to be sufficient for the school district. Jakobe was allowed to keep his stylish Mohawk and remain in enrolled in the school with the motto to “be our best.”
“It is about being true to who you are. I appreciate the Seneca Nation coming to my son’s defense, ” commented Gary Sanden to Native News Online on Sunday evening. “It is time for us to show our youth to take pride in who they are.”