'Redskins' retirement sinking in
Colusa High School will remove the popular but controversial Redskins names from its sports teams. But some students and townspeople say many of them will accept the new reality only slowly and grudgingly.
"You take pride in your school, what you are," Brittani Gomez, a Colusa High junior, said Wednesday, the day after the Colusa Unified School District dropped the Indian-themed symbol in a contentious 3-2 vote. "We will always be Redskins, even if it's not politically correct."
The Redskins arrow and headdress logos splashed across the sweatshirts and caps of many in the audience Tuesday showed the depth of enthusiasm for the mascot, which Colusa High has used for more than eight decades. Mascot backers appeared to well outnumber its foes among the 110 in attendance, in the seats and at the lectern for public comments.
But some Wintun and Maidu tribes members made up in conviction what they lacked in numbers, calling the word "redskin" the legacy of racism, oppression and genocide. Those voices of protest are what turned the tide, said Cindy Steidlmayer, one of three trustees to vote for its removal.
"When we looked at it six years ago, we thought we were being told by the powers that be that we needed to change it," said Steidlmayer, a 22-year veteran of the school board. Members discussed choosing a new mascot in 2002 — the year the state Legislature launched the first of three failed bids to force the change in Colusa — but never voted.
"This time, there were enough people speaking out, trying to explain how offended they were by the term," she said. "It never was the original intent to have the mascot be offensive. Now, with time, that is becoming the case, so it was time to change it."
Meanwhile, the leader of Colusa High's sports fundraising arm pondered how the loss of a popular school symbol might affect how the community backs its sports teams.
"Individuals who support us have said they would think twice about (donating to) us now because of this," said Perry Taylor, president of the Colusa Redskins Athletic Foundation. "They're not hurting the school in any way shape or form; they're hurting our kids."
The 1985 graduate of Colusa High said he will petition the school district to allow other, less explosive Indian-themed mascots to be considered.
Despite that, he allowed himself to believe that enough alumni and other townsfolk eventually will come to terms with the school board's decision.
"I don't think it'll be harder (to raise funds) if we tell people not to worry about the school board and help the kids, so we can keep going where we're going," he said.
The school district has not announced when it will choose a successor to the Redskins name, though a selection process involving students, faculty and residents could last into the fall.
Contact Appeal-Democrat reporter Howard Yune at 458-2121, 749-4708 or firstname.lastname@example.org