Carpinteria Protest: Hearing about angry protests over elimination of the Carpinteria High School’s Indian mascot, I thought of the fate of Chief Illiniwek back at my college alma mater.
(At least one Carpinteria school board member has been getting death threats and some unhappy residents are demanding that the 3-2 vote be reconsidered at the May 13 board meeting.)
Back when I was a sportswriter at the U of Illinois, I used to thrill when Chief Illiniwek marched proudly onto the football field.
At halftime, with the band playing The March of the Illini, Hail to the Orange, and Pride of the Illini, he’d emerge from among the horns and glockenspiels to our cheers.
In our 1950s-style innocence, we somehow felt that Chief Illiniwek, in his feathered headdress, was paying tribute to the Indians who once had inhabited the plains of Illinois. The Chief, actually a white student, seemed to symbolize the strength and solemn dignity of the Indians.
It never occurred to us what Native Americans might have thought about a university of higher learning hijacking the image of that proud race whose land some of our forefathers had taken over for the campus, the cornfields of Illinois, or the skyscrapers of Chicago.
After all, the Chief — a fictional figure to be sure — had been the school’s mascot since 1926. But the world has taken a few whirls since I left the campus. For the past two decades or so, school mascots with Indian names have been the center of controversy. They have misappropriated indigenous cultural figures and rituals and perpetuated stereotypes, critics charged.
And so, after a long dispute, Chief Illiniwek made his last official appearance at an Illinois “Fighting Illini” men’s basketball game on Feb. 21, 2007. The Chief was a dubious tradition whose time had come and gone. The nation had moved on.
Not so at Carpinteria High School on Wednesday, a day after the Carpinteria Unified School District Board voted to keep the team name, Warriors, but do away with the Indian murals and other icons, considered offensive by some students. On Wednesday, about 600 students marched on district superintendent Paul Cordiero’s office to protest the board’s decision.
The ban was carefully considered and studied and the issue is actually a “legal matter,” said board member Beverly Grant, who voted in the majority.
She cited a U.S. Civil Rights Commission calling for “for an end to the use of Native American images and team names by non-Native schools. The commission deeply respects the rights of all Americans to freedom of expression under the First Amendment and in no way would attempt to prescribe how people can express themselves. However, the commission believes that the use of Native American images and nicknames in school is insensitive and should be avoided.”
As for the protests, “You don’t decide the truth by a show of hands,” Grant told me. “The Constitution isn’t up for grabs.” If the issue is on the agenda, “We’ll consider it again” said Grant, “but we can’t change what’s right.” If something is “degrading, why would we want to continue?”
She said she has no intention of changing her vote. As to calls for compromise, the board already did that by retaining the team name Warriors, she said.
The move stemmed from a conference aimed at getting students together to talk about issues, Grant said. One student, a Chumash, wrote a letter asking the board to take up the issue, but he wasn’t the only one who felt that way, she said.
“I’m saving the hate mail — emails and phone messages — and the ones that are threats I’m taking to the Sheriff’s office.”
Roberts v. News-Press: “We wish to clarify several factual matters regarding the legal conflict between Jerry Roberts and the News-Press, as described in Barney Brantingham’s online column of April 22,” writes Andrine K. Smith, Roberts’ San Francisco attorney.
“First, the suggestion that Jerry Roberts somehow upped the ante in the arbitration action with the Santa Barbara News-Press by counter-claiming for $10 million dollars in damages is not accurate. Mr. Roberts did not ask for any particular amount in his counter-claim. He merely asked for ‘damages according to proof’ — in other words, whatever was established by the evidence.
“For filing fee purposes, however, the American Arbitration Association treated this as a claim for the maximum of $10 million. By contrast, Ampersand’s own amended demand in arbitration was raised specifically, from $500,000 to $25 million, many months later for reasons unrelated to Mr. Roberts’ counter-claim.’
(Smith did not explain what those reasons were.)
“Secondly, the column quotes an attorney for the paper, who seeks to justify its $25 million claim by alleging that Mr. Roberts made disparaging statements about Wendy McCaw after he left the News-Press that were picked up in numerous news stories. The News-Press fails to mention is that it had first initiated the public debate by publicly impugning Mr. Roberts’ motives for leaving, within hours of his having done so, before he made any statement.”
Pitt-Jolie to Wed Here?: According to UK sources, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie plan a quiet wedding sometime in June at their getaway retreat here. George Clooney and Matt Damon are reportedly on the guest list. There are even rumors that Angie and her estranged father - Jon Voight - may reconcile for the occasion. According to the UK Daily Mail, Angelina has asked her father to walk her down the aisle. A friend says, “Since they started talking by phone in January, Angie has thought about asking Jon to give her away. Angie came around after her brother intervened and strongly urged her to bury the hatchet.”
Taste of the Nation: Sunday’s wine and food soiree at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, April 27, will benefit the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County. An array of wines and special dishes will be offered by over 20 restaurants and wineries, 1-4 p.m. Admission: $75 in advance, $100 at the door. VIP: noon-4 p.m, $100 in advance, $125 at the door. Tel: 877-268-2783 or www.TasteOfTheNation.org.
Youth Violence: Should juveniles be sentenced to life without possibility of parole? That and such issues as local gang problems and international child soldiers will be tackled at Monday’s Bar Week panel discussion at the Faulkner Gallery at 7 p.m. on April 28. Human Rights v. Youth Violence: Conflict or Not is the topic. The panel will include Superior Court Judges Frank Ochoa and Tom Adams, Deputy District Attorney Jeff Gittler, Deputy Chief Probation Officer Martin Conoley, and defense attorney Tara Haaland-Ford, chairman of the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Commission, with former Santa Barbara District Attorney Stan Roden and Brad Ginder leading the discussion.
Barney Brantingham can be reached at email@example.com or (805) 965-5205. He writes online columns for Tuesdays and Fridays and a print column for Thursdays