Change the racist Watchung Hills Regional High School mascot

Change the racist Watchung Hills Regional High School mascot

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Genevieve Rust
Genevieve Rust signed this petition

We students, parents, teachers, and community affiliated with Watchung Hills Regional High School are demanding the eradication of our current mascot, the “Warrior.” It perpetuates and embodies the systemic racism against Native American peoples, representing them as a caricature instead of honoring their personhood and vibrant culture. Watchung Hills cannot attempt to foster a community of true diversity, equity, and inclusion under this archaic and unnecessary mascot. 


We demand: 

  • A complete name and mascot change. This can be done either through a removal of the mascot as a whole with no substitution, or an entirely new mascot that is not based on hate.
  • The removal of the Native American caricature from school grounds and all objects therein, such as attire and merchandise, sports jerseys, stickers, murals, and future yearbooks. 

Our primary representation of this mascot is the featureless profile of a Native American head, donning a War Bonnet, a headdress traditionally worn by Great Plains Indians, including tribes such as the Cheyenne, Lakota, Pawnee. Although some may argue that the “Warrior” symbol represents local history with its traditional garb, this is entirely untrue.

Somerset County, which houses ¾ of our sending districts, is considered to be one of the oldest counties in the United States, having been settled in 1681. However, our roots are settled far deeper than that; we owe our land and abundance of natural resources to the Lenni-Lenape tribe, who had been living in the tri-state area for hundreds of years before European settlers arrived. Their homeland and ways of life are erased in favor of a colonial-based education, as there remain few sites, educational outposts, and public resources that honor and display the triumphant culture of the Lenni-Lenape in our area.


Watchung Hills’ “Warrior” mascot does nothing but perpetuate common stereotypes of Native Americans as violent, savage people, undermining the deeply peaceful and spiritual aspects of their culture. It serves as a representation of colonialism and bigotry, instead of an elevation of a deeply important minority group that has faced countless devastations throughout American History. The National Congress of American Indians states that “derogatory "Indian" sports mascots have serious psychological, social and cultural consequences for Native Americans, especially Native youth,” and leads to an uptick in negative views towards Native Americans.


This change would provide a great opportunity for the Watchung Hills community to educate themselves on the issues of minority groups and create a more welcoming and tolerance-based atmosphere both in and outside the school. Students could participate in creating a new mascot through drawing designs and voting on their favorites. Some alternatives that honor New Jersey’s history include the Stallions (the state animal), Hornets (state bug), or the Violets (state flower). 


We call upon administrative officials, such as Ms. Jewett, Superintendent, Mr. Librera, Principal,  and Vice Principals Ms. Toubin, Mr. Searfoss, and Mr. Flakker to hear our demands and enact the necessary change we need to make in order to stand for the acceptance of all people, regardless of race and heritage. 


Sources and further reading: 

Davis-Delano, L., & Svrluga, B. (n.d.). Change The Mascot - Launched By The Oneida Indian Nation. Retrieved July 05, 2020, from https://www.changethemascot.org/

Ditmire, S. (2000, June 6). Native People of New Jersey. Retrieved from http://www.usgennet.org/usa/nj/state/Lenape.htm

Muscavage, N. (2018, November 08). New Jersey schools split on Native American sports mascots, logos. Retrieved July 05, 2020, from https://www.mycentraljersey.com/story/news/education/in-our-schools/2018/11/08/new-jersey-native-american-mascots-logos-schools/1818744002/

The Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape, Our Tribal History. (2007). Retrieved July 05, 2020, from https://nanticoke-lenape.info/history.htm

National Congress of American Indians. (n.d.). Ending the Era of Harmful "Indian" Mascots. Retrieved from http://www.ncai.org/proudtobe

USA TODAY Network Atlantic Group Editorial Board. (2020, June 23). It's time for high school mascots that stir hate, symbolize racism to go: Editorial. Retrieved July 05, 2020, from https://www.northjersey.com/story/opinion/editorials/2020/06/23/hs-mascots-stir-hate-symbolize-racism-need-go-editorial/3242843001/

Zeitler, E. (2008, May). Geographies of Indigenous-Based Team Name and Mascot Use in American Secondary Schools. Retrieved from http://www.indianmascots.com/zeitler-web-_geographies_of.pdf