Students renew call to change Sequoia High School’s team name

in Education/Featured/Headline and

A group of students has renewed an effort to change the name of Sequoia High School’s team name, the Cherokees, to the Ravens.

The group, called the Ready for Ravens Club, argues the team name Cherokee is insensitive and racially derogatory to Native Americans.

Cherokee became the team name and mascot in 1926. That’s because the school, founded in 1895, was named after the campus’ great redwood trees, which received their name from Chief Sequoyah, a Cherokee Indian scholar.

In recent decades, however, there has been a push at schools and professional sports teams to ban athletic team names, mascots and nicknames that are deemed racially derogatory or discriminatory, including those referring to Native Americans.

In 2000-2001, a similar effort to change the Sequoia High name resulted in the school board passing a resolution to change its physical mascot from a Cherokee to a Raven. However, the school retained Cherokee as the team name, even after the then-chief of the Cherokee Nation described the name as offensive.

At the time, the decision to keep the team name was to continue honoring Chief Sequoyah, while the decision to drop the mascot was to end the school’s physical representation of the Cherokee.

But the student group, Ready for Ravens, said it’s time to drop the Cherokee name entirely. The students plan to make their case today at the Sequoia Union High School District board meeting. They will present the following video, as well as results from their research that can be accessed in greater detail here.


“Since [2000-2001], many studies have been done and resolutions and laws have passed that make it the right time to revisit this, and we believe it is now time to change the team name to Ravens,” the student groups says.

The Ready for Ravens Club was formed by students in February with advisory support from school staff and parents. It held weekly meetings, conducted research and surveys, raised awareness and even produced a video report. The group gathered signatures and letters of support from over 600 students, staff and teams.

While some students want to keep the Cherokee name, preferring it over the Ravens, “many athletes are no longer proud to be called Cherokees, especially because of the controversies with the Washington and Cleveland professional sports native team names and mascots,” according to the club.

The club also met with the SHS Alumni Association, “many members of whom feel very strongly about keeping the Cherokee name,” the student group said.

The students will appear this evening at the Sequoia Union High School District Board of Trustees meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. in the Birch Conference Room of the Sanford Building at 480 James Ave.

2 Comments

  1. These days it seems common sense has been replaced by political correctness. To suggest the name “Cherokees” is “racially insensitive” as some current students have, is an indictment of those who chose the name. A check of the history behind the choice demonstrates anything but that intent. Why would any local leader choose to be racially motivated when selecting a mascot name for an educational institution? Such action would put a stain on the reputation of said institution. It makes no sense. I do not believe it was the case then, nor is it the case today.
    The name was chosen to honor and respect a great Native American tribe. Moreover, since one of the basic principles of team sport competition is to demonstrate power and strength, “Cherokees” may have been chosen in part to instill a little fear in the heart of opponents. In the sports world this is tactically appropriate.

    Those who chose the name are not here to offer their explanation. However, as things stand they have been accused in absentia without the ability to defend or explain. Apparently today’s students feel they have the right to criticize, in spite of not actually knowing the mindset of those who chose the name.
    Today’s youth and many adults seem to be caught in a mercurial wave of political correctness. The name has stood for decades in a place of honor. Thousands of people have been part of the Cherokees tradition. Fond memories are permanently etched in the 90+ years of graduates from Sequoia. Polls (as you will see) indicate alumni overwhelmingly favor keeping the Cherokees name. It’s part of who we are.

    IS OUR HISTORY TO BE IGNORED?

    What happens when today’s politically correct issue becomes politically incorrect tomorrow? Is another name change to be considered? What if some Scottish people object to Carlmont’s “Scots” or if some Norwegian’s object to Palo Alto’s “Vikings?” When will it end?

    Consider this- with all appropriate and due respect intended-
    Negro, colored person, black person, person of color, African American are all terms which have been used to describe a particular group of people. Each of them has been used within a respectful context. Yet, some have been seen as offensive or racially insensitive. If the intent of the person using the term is designed to avoid overtly racial terminology and be respectful, how can that be deemed “racially insensitive?” It seems to me racial insensitivity would be intentionally using a term or name which is known to be disrespectful. This is clearly not the case when using said terms. Moreover, it is not the case with the name “Cherokees.”

    Trying to appease an accusation of racial insensitivity in the name of political correctness opens what could be a never-ending revolving door. Further, I think it’s incumbent upon the accuser to prove there is malice or disrespect on the part of the person, or persons who chose the name. Today’s well intentioned students are expressing their politically correct feelings with no such proof. They are merely saying THEY feel it’s racially insensitive 90+ years after the name was respectfully chosen. They are also ignoring overwhelming alumni sentiment.

    POLLING ALUMNI

    We alumni are just as much part of Sequoia as they are, and we object. Most of us are not directly connected to daily life at Sequoia any more for obvious reasons. We are spread far and wide. However, I say “we” because I have been able to sample some sentiment of alumni through several Facebook pages. I polled their thoughts on the name change issue. Of those who responded the count to date is 243 in favor of retaining the Cherokees name, with 6 against retaining it. That amounts to 98% in favor. If you wish to see screenshots of the responses I am happy to assemble and forward it. As I understand it the Sequoia High Alumni Association received overwhelming support for keeping the Cherokee name when they conducted their own survey.

    The symbol and mascot have already been changed to Ravens, which goes against the sentiment of decades of alumni, who feel voiceless and ignored. What happens when today’s student becomes tomorrow’s alumni? Will they look back feeling they did the right thing? Or will they eventually conclude they were short-sighted? Will they think they gave in to a decision they have grown to regret, knowing they ignored the preferences of thousands of alumni that preceded them who helped make Sequoia the renowned institution it is.

    MUTUAL SENSITIVITY

    Instead of acquiescing to the mercurial wave of political correctness, why can’t the Board choose to recognize and affirm the passion of today’s students, having allowed the physical mascot and symbol to be changed, while simultaneously understanding the overwhelming majority of 90+ years of alumni favoring the time honored tradition of the Cherokee name? In an effort to bring a solution that allows some degree of moral victory for those on both sides of the issue, I respectfully request retaining the one remaining identification as “Cherokees.” I believe such a decision would demonstrate mutual sensitivity.
    Best regards,
    Daniel Calic
    Sequoia class of 1968

  2. Why would it be offensive? It wasn’t offensive to me ever and I’m part Cherokee.
    Be offended by something that actually is offensive.

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