The deceptive tacitcs used by some educators to try to convince people it is acceptable to keep their racist mascots, were eclipsed by the actions of the Arcadia High School principal Martin Plourde in December 1999.
When we try to educate people about the harm these mascots do, we often hear that the educators beleive they are honoring us with these mascots. Martin Plourde was no different than many others in that respect, he insisted it is an honor to Apache people to have his students call themselves Apache. In his efforts to prove what he was saying to be true, he and two staff members drove the 600 miles to the Fort Apache Reservation, home to the White Mountain Apaches.
He wanted to hear directly from real Apaches how they felt about his school's use of the name.
They spent the day visiting the school and were guided by Jandi Hernandez, the Student Council President, and by Mr. Curtis Suttle, Administrative Assistant for Student Affairs. Both Jandi and Mr. Suttle are members of the White Mountain Apache Tribe. During the last period of the day, the Arcadia delegation met with members of the Student Council and members of Mr. David Edgar's Honors Government class. Alchesay students at that meeting were invited to speak honestly and frankly to the visitors about the use of the name "Apaches" by Arcadia High School. When all who wished to do so had spoken, the consensus of the Alchesay students was that Arcadia High School should NOT use the name "Apaches." The Alchesay students were also distressed that a student publication at Arcadia was entitled "The Stupid Indian." Principal Martin Plourde told the students that he would be leaving early the next morning to return to California. As the meeting broke up, one of the Apache parents invited Martin Plourde to her home for supper.
Since Martin Plourde did not hear from the students what he wanted to hear, instead of leaving in the early morning as he told the students he was to do - he met with the Tribal Council. And, he changed his tactics. He did not mention that he had spent the day at the school and he did not mention that the students told him they were NOT agreeable to him using the name "Apache" for his school. He became the deceptive whiteman with a bag full of beads - he offered to bring coats and warm clothes to the Apache people - he offered to bring toys for the children, in exchange for the Tribal Council's agreement that he could use the Apache name for his school mascot.
The Council did agree, but then they heard from the Apache people who are telling them they had no right sell the proud Apache name for a few trinkets. They are demanding that the Council retract what they said.
Vickie Vela, an Apache, told Arcadia school board members last week - "We do not understand why you continue to believe that it is acceptable for you to perpetuate those negative feelings against our nation, for you to continue... is not only a crime against Apache people, but all of humanity."
Fern Mathias, an Indian activist whose grandchildren attend the school says, "The few Native American students at Arcadia High have been discriminated against."
School officials who sometimes seem to turn a blind eye to racism, dispute those charges.
Dhanielle Declay, a senior at Alchesay on the Apache Reservation, told Plourde when he visited in December; "By using our name, Apache, for your school's logo, the action directly takes from us, you've taken almost everything from us. In the very least, I ask that you leave us our name. Leave our heritage, our religion, our language, our ways, and our name alone."
Madeline Palmer, Alchesay's associate principal, condemned Arcadia in even stronger language. "I feel you treated our students with disrespect and a total lack of honesty, after all your words about valuing what students feel and want to see accomplished, you chose to ignore everything they told you... I do not care to have any more dealings with you or your administration."
Madeline Palmer was disappointed but probably not surprised, because Plourde, after telling her students that he had come to Arizona to hear their opinions, was by chance introduced to a member of the Tribal Council, Herbert Tate. Tate invited the principal before the full council, which gave him permission to use the name.
When the truckload of beads, err - make that coats and toys arrived on the reservation in Arizona, accompanied by some students from the Arcadia High School, they were met by Apache students, some of them in tears because the Arcadia school continues to use the Apache name.
The two groups of students talked about the mascot, and about each other's differing worlds - the Arcadia students for the most part, live in million-dollar homes. The Apache students explained how it is to live in poverty on a reservation which has a high unemployment rate, and where maybe less than 50% of the people even have telephones.
Even though the Arcadia students remarked that the Apache teenagers have something that they lack, they thought it was alright to keep the Apache mascot. What was the "something" that these poverty stricken teenagers have that the California teenagers lack? David Hsu, Arcadia student body vice president, said; "When you hear those kids speak about the culture and traditions they have, and what they have lost, I have never heard such profound stuff."
Plourde said: "The reason we keep Apaches as a symbol is that, when you look at these people, who have been through so much... despite it all, they are standing proud," he said. "What better symbol for our kids can there be?"
And, he thinks he can buy that kind of pride with a truck full of beads - err, sorry - coats and toys. I guess that he figures it is easier to buy that pride from someone who already has it than it is to teach it to his students. VERY SAD!
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