Last Sunday, California became the first state in the nation to legally bar public schools from using ‘Redsk*ns’ as a moniker or mascot. The law will affect four high schools that have continued to use the name despite increasing pressure locally and nationally due to heavy scrutiny on the NFL’s Washington football team.
The Friday prior, one of the holdouts, Tulare Union High School in Tulare, California, appeared blissfully unaware of the pending changes at the state legislature spurred by Native American youth, educators, and tribal leaders.
In a pep rally broadcast on local television, the Tulare Union “Redsk*n Indian princess,” clad in a floor-length faux headdress and polyester regalia, danced to a marching band “Indian” theme straight from a 50s Western as the student body did the tomahawk chop, glowsticks in hand.
Principal Michelle Nunley provided commentary on the event, “What you’re seeing is our Redsk*n princess, doing our traditional spirit dance. It’s part of our Redsk*ns tradition, we’ve been Redsk*ns for 100 years.”
‘Our’ traditional spirit dance.
Sometimes, it’s so bad you can’t even make it up.
A few hours away, 17-year-old high school student Dahkota Brown, a Miwuk member of the Wilton Rancheria, led the fight in the California legislature to end the school-sanctioned use of a racial slur.
Regarding the actions of his fellow Californian high school students, Brown told ICTMN: “As ASB president of my school, I know the hard work that goes into planning a rally, especially before a big football game. One of the things we take into consideration…is whether or not everyone in the room and everyone participating will be comfortable with the performances. If the answer is ‘no’, we don’t do it. It’s that simple.”
“What bothers me about the video of Tulare Union’s rally,” he continued, “is the obvious reasoning that there is no possible way, with the bill and the monumental controversy over the issue of Native mascots, that everybody in that video was comfortable with what was happening.”
According to demographics obtained from Tulare Union High School, 1-percent of the 1,737 students are Native American.
At the end of the TV segment, broadcasters hailed Tulare’s dancing Redsk*n princess, “That spirit dance was awesome! I got chills from the drums.”
Tara Houska. Photo courtesy Josh Daniels.
Tara Houska (Couchiching First Nation) is a tribal rights attorney in Washington, D.C., a founding member of NotYourMascots.org, and an all-around rabble rouser. Follow her: @zhaabowekwe.