May 17, 2011

Warriors mascot done right

Celebrating a most unique connection"Warriors, always take care of one another.” This famous Arapahoe quote is frequently intoned by Principal Ron Booth over the intercom, at assemblies and during lunch. Anthony Sitting Eagle (the Arapaho tribal elder for whom Arapahoe’s main gym is named) originally spoke these words, which now circulate throughout the halls of Arapahoe signaling the respect between Arapahoe High School and the Arapaho Tribe.

The trip to the Wind River Reservation recently took place on April 14 and 15 and, with its passing, the Arapahoe Herald would like to voice its support for this special association that is renewed each year.

As freshman Warriors, we all learn about the unique connection Arapahoe shares with our mascot. The relationship with the Arapaho tribe is a special part of our high school experience that few other schools can claim. This connection brings us all together, both in times of peace and of tragedy. It allows us to be a stronger student body than that of other schools and creates a bond between all students.

“I think understanding people who are different from us helps us to strengthen our understanding of ourselves,” Booth said.

The Arapaho connection began in 1993 when a proclamation was signed as an agreement between the two cultures. The Arapaho Tribe endorsed the Warrior logo for Arapahoe High School’s purposes.

Every year this relationship is rekindled, either by a portion of the student body visiting the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming, or by several members of the Arapaho tribe coming to Centennial to share some of their culture with us.

This unique mascot and the meaning behind it is so different from that of any other school. For other schools, in Colorado and across the nation, the mascot is no more than a picture, something used as a common theme in sporting events.

For Arapahoe, the Warrior, originally designed by Wilbur Antelope, is an icon. It is a symbol of the struggles of the Arapaho Nation and its survival, and it serves as more than a picture on the wall of the school. It holds meaning and students learn to respect the image and the values it represents.

For the very reason of respect, the Warrior image is not to be placed on floors where it could be disrespected by being stepped on. It also cannot be used on the jerseys of sports teams, because athletes in some sports spend time on the ground. One single constant image is used, rather than variations.
News flash:  School board offers three choices for "Indian mascot": Orators, Healers, or Spiritualists. Students say, "Huh?"

That's a joke, but it shows you how I feel about the "Warriors" nickname. Indians have been stereotyped as warriors a million times. No matter how tastefully it's done, another instance of this stereotype only adds to the problem. We need a million instances of of something other than warriors--of orators, healers, and spiritualists--to counteract the stereotype.

But if the school "has" to use "Warriors," it's done the job right. It has asked permission. It uses a single image in respectful ways. It links the mascot to an educational effort so students actually learn about Indians.

The image below is decent. On the one hand, it's a stereotypical chief. On the other hand, I presume it's an accurate portrait of an Arapahoe. And the off-center shield shape is interesting.

Of course, the previous version (below) was much worse. This is your classic mean-faced, cartoon savage. It's how the school originally perceived Indians. It's what most people think when they think of "warriors."

To reiterate, the super-sensitive approach is a recent addition that takes much effort to maintain. For most people, "warriors" are mean-faced, cartoon savages. For the 300 million-plus Americans who don't meet with the Arapahoe annually, the team name and logo contribute to the stereotype.

For more on the subject, see Male Warriors and Female Princesses, Alexie on Warriors, and Carpinteria Warriors Don't Dance.


dmarks said...

The CMU Chippewas also do this right, I think.

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