After years of debate, the “Cherokee” name used by sports teams at Sequoia High since 1926 has been retired and replaced with the “Raven.”
Following a public hearing last week, the Sequoia Union High School District Board of Trustees unanimously accepted Superintendent Mary Streshly’s recommendation to part ways with Cherokee, citing, in part, its offensiveness to Native Americans. In a presentation leading up to the Board’s decision, Sequoia High Principal Sean Priest expressed a “collective campus feeling of discomfort” about the Cherokee name. Last year, a group of students at the school renewed an effort to change the name.
“Although we understand the nostalgic connection some in our community have with the now former mascot, we believe it is critical to, not only listen to our students, but give them the necessary support to lead as they are the current stewards of Sequoia High School,” Board President Georgia Jack said in a district statement.
The controversy over the Cherokee name has been ongoing for decades. In 2001, a group of faculty and students at the high school successfully lobbied the Board to drop the Cherokee warrior mascot in favor of Raven. That decision received pushback, with opponents arguing the Cherokee name honors Cherokee scholar Chief Sequoyah. Founded in 1895, the school was named after the campus’ redwood trees, which received their name from Chief Sequoyah. Later in 2001, the Board revised the policy to keep Cherokee as the name for athletic teams, while maintaining Raven as the new school mascot. The Board also imposed strict rules against the use of images or caricatures of the Cherokee that could be deemed derogatory.
Since then, the national controversy over mascot names at schools and professional sports teams has only increased. Last year, a student group called Ready for Ravens renewed the effort to retire the Cherokee name once and for all at Sequoia High. The students researched the topic, surveyed their campus community and made their case to the Board in December. In addition to the name being derogatory, the students said, there was confusion with using Cherokee as the team name and Raven as the official mascot.
“This was a decision that relied heavily on the fact that students were seeking this change, and the intent of the California Racial Mascot Act enacted in 2015 to protect historically marginalized peoples from cultural appropriation in athletic competition,” the district said in a statement after the Board’s vote.