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Is the Sammamish High School Mascot Offensive?

Is Sammamish High School's mascot the Totems offensive to you? We ask you, Patch users, do you think the mascot should be replaced to keep in line with the State Board of Education's recommendation on Native American-themed team names?

QUESTION: Should Sammamish High School take up the state Board of Education's recommendation and change the name of its mascot, the Totems?

The Associated Press is reporting that the state Board of Education is encouraging all schools with Native American names to replace them.

The state board passed a resolution on Wednesday urging districts to stop using Native American mascots, the AP reported (linked to here via The Seattle Times):

In the past decade, about 10 schools have given up their Indian mascots. But another 50, including tribal schools, are holding fast to their nicknames as warriors, braves, redskins and red devils.

In Bellevue, the mascot of one of its high schools - Sammamish High School - is the Totems.

The State Board of Education's resolution cites the American Psychological Association's research "documenting harm to Native American children, called for the immediate retirement of all Native American mascots, symbols, images, and personalities..." (Read the rest of the resolution in the PDF attached to this article.)

While the board can't require schools to change their mascots, but it strongly encourages schools to drop the symbols, in part, to change negative perceptions of Native Americans.

Nothing has come up formally in Bellevue to change the name, as far as we know. But we'll put the question to you, Patch community. And if anyone has any background or history about the mascot, please share it here.

Should Sammamish High School take up the state Board of Education's recommendation and change the name of its mascot, the Totems? Tell us in the comments below.

Bruce Newman September 30, 2012 at 10:34 PM
The much more offensive mascot is at Eastside Catholic. They're the "Crusaders." Ugh.
Brent Champaco October 01, 2012 at 08:44 AM
Just got this from a user: "NO! It is not offfensive. I find it offensive that people want to bury the entire culture of Native American Indians. Are the Native Americans offended? I hope not. I believe these names were chosen for the positive attributes they possessed. Braves, Indians, Chiefs and Totems should be celebrated. While we are at it, maybe we should ask the Beavers, Hawks and Kangaroos how they feel about being humanized?"
Kirkland Tony October 01, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Isn't it time to send the traumatized hyper-sensitive souls who find offense in every little act and word to councilling? We don't need more sensitivity, but rather less hyper-sensivity.
Jeanne Gustafson October 01, 2012 at 06:20 PM
I won't speak for American Indians, but at my alma mater, North Central High School in Spokane, the teams were known as the Indians. While I was a student there, a dear friend of mine and his sister served as the school mascots, and they are of American Indian descent. I've shared this story with him and hope he will offer his perspective on this issue.
Jeanne Gustafson October 01, 2012 at 07:57 PM
This from a Sammamish-Issaquah Patch Facebook fan: My husband and I always comment on how surprising it is that Crusaders is considered acceptable when we drive past Crusader St outside the school. And he went to school there. I don't think it is *more* offensive, but equally offensive.
WendyB October 01, 2012 at 08:04 PM
I think it's time to change. While we're at it, could we please throw out "Fighting Irish"? Thanks so much.
Amie Ryan October 01, 2012 at 10:47 PM
I can recall a poster at LW saying "Chop The Totems" with a hand painted poster of a kangaroo firing an arrow at a Native American. It makes me pretty embarassed. I'm in favor of getting rid of these mascots and wonder why it wasn't done decades ago.
Amie Ryan October 01, 2012 at 10:48 PM
Oh and by the way, is Juanita High School still using the stars and bars flag?
Greg Johnston (Editor) October 01, 2012 at 11:15 PM
Amie, my kids all went to Juanita and I don't ever recall seeing the Confederate flag there. It sure isn't on the uniforms.
Patrick Nolan October 02, 2012 at 04:35 AM
I think the "totem", being an inanimate object, is the least offensive, if at all, and should stay, unless contested, and even then, it's purely up to the school. According to the article link: "the state board passed a resolution on Wednesday urging districts to stop using Native American mascots, but as board spokesman Aaron Wyatt acknowledges, it does not have the authority to mandate this change." Other names that would and should stay, if they were mascot names, are "Feathers", "Tunics", "Spears" or "Arrows". Incidentally, the totem has been used in other parts of the world, and not solely used by native North American tribes.
Venice Buhain October 02, 2012 at 01:13 PM
Great point, Amie. I actually had been wondering how a Totem necessarily would be considered offensive, as long as it's not used in caricature by the school, which it is not in Sammamish's case -- even though I am the one who edited Brent's original article about the issue to fit Bellevue Patch because "Totems" certainly would be included as a symbol important to the Northwest tribes. But you point out a good example of ways that the imagery by the opposing team could become racist and encourage racism, even if the people who made the poster didn't have that intention. Did you see any supervisors or administrators at the game (or wherever you saw that poster) say anything to its creator?
Amie Ryan October 03, 2012 at 09:16 PM
Re: Greg Johnston, I should have been more specific. Juanita does not fly the confederate flag or have it on the building or on the uniforms but I can tell you that in the late 70's when my sister went to Juanita and in the mid 80's when I was at LW and we played Juanita all the time, it was a very common spirit thing for Juanita students to have mini versions of the confederate flags that they would carry to games, attach to their car antennas, and hang in their car's rear windows. I recall no one said a thing against it and they called this "really spirited". I don't think they had any rules about it, so I don't think anyone ever told these kids they couldn't do that.
Greg Johnston (Editor) October 03, 2012 at 09:34 PM
Oh OK, I understand Amie. Frankly, I don't have a good answer, but I have not seen students and fans use the Confederate flag. I attended two basketball games at Juanita High last year and didn't see it. I will check with my (grown) kids though and see if they recall it. Thanks for the input Amie!
Greg Johnston (Editor) October 03, 2012 at 10:12 PM
Our friend Amie Ryan of Kirkland has shared a photo that illustrates her point here, showing a poster made by Lake Washington students before a game against the Sammamish Totems some years ago. I have attached it to this story. -Greg
Jeanne Gustafson October 04, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Also, Charles Fishburn, the high school classmate I mentioned above, wrote a very interesting essay on his opinion as an American Indian who once also served as the mascot for his high school sports program--the Indians: http://patch.com/A-ywzY
Carolyn October 04, 2012 at 10:03 PM
I think having the Totem mascot is more in honor of a Native American symbol. Are there any Native American tribes that are offended by it?? Not sure why it would be offensive. It seems to me we're honoring Native American heritage by having those mascots. But I'm not Native American so that's just my opinon. And I'm more biased also since I graduated from Sammamish. :)
Kirkland parent October 07, 2012 at 05:15 PM
OMG people - stop it! Quit trying to make EVERYTHING something offensive!!!!! It is a historical fact indians lived here before caucasians arrogantly overtook everything. RELAX.

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