Student-led group petitions to change ‘Cherokee’ name

Aviva Futornick , Online Editor

A new student-led group, ‘Ready for Ravens,’ was recently created to petition the change of Sequoia’s team name from Cherokees to Ravens.
The club, which meets once a week, is currently working to garner support from students, parents, alumni and community members. In a petition created online, the club states that ‘Native groups, and specifically the Cherokee nations, have asked for non-native schools to stop using Native names, logos and mascots as they consider this racism and stereotyping.’
Sophomore Miles Webb, one of the club’s founding members, joined because he felt that the current setup of a differing name and identity disrupts the school’s identity.
“The middle ground is not fair to the entire student body,” Webb said. “We don’t have an identity because we can’t write Cherokees on anything and we can’t write Ravens on anything.”
Currently Sequoia’s official mascot is the Raven and the official team name is the Cherokees. The Raven was introduced in February 2001 following a series of behaviors such as the image of the Cherokee on various sports uniforms and school apparel and a person in full headdress appearing as the mascot, which occurred in years prior to the decision.
The actions in 2001 were supported by the Sequoia High School Alumni Association, including President Ken Rolandelli. The final decision reached was that all physical images of Cherokee would be removed, while the name would be retained with a set of guidelines and standards for its use.
The association believes that having Cherokees as the team name is an important aspect of Sequoia’s history.
“Knowing the history, I believe it’s highly respectful to have the Cherokee [as the team name],” Rolandelli said in a phone interview.
The Cherokee was selected by the student body in 1925 in honor of the Indian Chief Sequoyah, who was half Cherokee. Sequoia was originally named for the Sequoia redwood trees, which in turn were named for Chief Sequoyah.
Physics teacher Allison Honold disagrees with the use of Cherokee, and hopes to see it changed.
“We are not a school of Cherokees,” Honold said. “I don’t see any pros, I only see cons.”
Honold supports ravens by showing students videos highlighting the intelligence of ravens.
Both Honold and Rolandelli believe it could be valuable to send a poll to the student body, and properly gauge the support for the issue. A similar poll was done in 2001, according to Rolandelli, where 79 percent of the student body believed the Cherokee name was respectful when used in honor of Chief Sequoyah and Sequoia’s history.
For students displeased with the Raven, Honold introduced an alternative idea.
“I think we could vote on a new [mascot] among a selection of alternatives,” Honold said.
To officially change the school’s name or mascot, it would have to be voted through by the school board.
The ongoing goals of Ready for Ravens, advised by Athletic Director Melissa Schmidt, are to continue gaining support and conduct a meeting composed of club members and the Alumni Association. Rolandelli states that the association has agreed to meet where both parties can have respectful conversations with one another.
“It is important to hear all sides of the issue and important to have thoughtful discussions on both sides,” Rolandelli said. “I think that once people hear the history, they would recognize it is not stereotypical.”
Regardless of his position on the issue, Rolandelli agrees that it is more meaningful to have students lead this discussion.
Club members will continue to promote their position, with the hope of better representing the current student body.
“Our school is super diverse and [the Cherokee name] doesn’t represent us as a whole,” Webb said. “[It] demonstrates a disconnect between the student body and the general culture of the past.”