Tulare Union High has a new mascot – the Tribe.
It replaces Redskins, a name banned by the Legislature in the wake of a nationwide movement to do away with a name considered offensive to Native Americans.
The five members of Tulare Joint Union High School District selected the new name Thursday at a regular board meeting by a 3-2 vote.
Trustees Kelley Nicholson, Frank Fernandes and Craig Hamilton voted yes, while Cathy Mederos and Laura Fonseca voted no.
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The new name will go into effect in time for the 2016-17 school year.
The decision allows Tulare Union to keep its Native American imagery, such as the eagle feather headdress as seen on a mural on the side of the school and worn at football games – at least for now.
Students said they accept the new name, if reluctantly.
“I’ll keep wearing my Redskins T-shirt,” said senior Cassidy Dolin, 16. “I think it’s going to be difficult at Union to start saying ‘Tribe.’ ”
Senior Sydney Brown, 17, said students took pride in the old name.
“When you go to school, you’re meant to be a family,” she said. “We wore the Redskins name. That’s who we were.”
Several students attended the school board meeting, and most of them sported T-shirts with the old mascot name.
“I’m going to have to get new clothes,” joked junior Summer Parreira.
Under a state law that passed the Legislature last year and was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, public high schools can’t use Redskins as a mascot name after Dec. 31.
Fernandes, the school board president, said the board simply was choosing a new name and not making a decision on the imagery.
The school administration and students will work that out, although the board has veto power, he said before the meeting.
I think it’s going to be difficult at Union to start saying ‘Tribe.’
Tulare Union senior Cassidy Dolin
Mederos said she voted no because the name Tribe could make it difficult in the long run to keep the traditional imagery if there is a challenge to the new name.
“It’s not easy to change,” she said. “The community definitely wants to keep the imagery. Choosing Tribe complicates the imagery.”
She noted there is a school club called T.R.I.B.E., which stands for Tulare Redskins Interested in Being Enthusiastic.
But Hamilton said the Tribe name will be a good fit for traditions at Tulare Union High.
“The word Tribe is generic,” he said. “The mascot name will be brought to life by the students.” Students have been respectful of Native American imagery, he said.
Randy Celaya of Tulare, who is Native American, said after the vote he opposes the name Tribe and expects there will be a legal challenge from a Native American advocacy group.
“There’s a movement across the country to get rid of Braves, Redskins and all the Native American names and imagery,” he said. “The headdress is disrespectful. The Eagle feathers are sacred.”
However, the murals at the schools should remain, he said. “The artwork is beautiful stuff.”
The name was one of three proposed replacements selected earlier this year by a committee of Tulare High students, staff and community members. The other choices were Legends and Renegades, with Tribe being the top recommendation.
Corky Mills of Tulare, who is Native American, said she preferred Legends.
“We could use it to identify our heroes” such as the Navajo codetalkers and honor them, she said.
The name change mandated by the Legislature has been controversial in Tulare. Tulare Union High had the now-banned name since before World War II.
Four high schools in California are affected by the law — Tulare, Chowchilla, Gustine and Calaveras.
Chowchilla is in the process of selecting a new name, while Gustine opted for Reds, the original mascot name from more than 100 years ago that was dropped in the 1930s as anti-Communist sentiments brewed.
Calaveras chose not to have a mascot name but is keeping the Native American theme in its logos.