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Chowchilla High changes Redskins mascot to Tribe

Chowchilla senior cheerleader Madison Robinson wears a Native American headdress during the Southern California Regional IV-AA Bowl Championship game against Fairfax at Chowchilla High School in Chowchilla on Dec. 12, 2015. The Redskins beat the Lions 28-16. Chowchilla is changing its mascot from the Redskins to the Tribe.
Chowchilla senior cheerleader Madison Robinson wears a Native American headdress during the Southern California Regional IV-AA Bowl Championship game against Fairfax at Chowchilla High School in Chowchilla on Dec. 12, 2015. The Redskins beat the Lions 28-16. Chowchilla is changing its mascot from the Redskins to the Tribe. akuhn@mercedsunstar.com

Bowing to the new state ban on their Redskins mascot, the Chowchilla Union High School District board of trustees has voted to change their nickname to Tribe in order to pay honor to the town’s tradition.

“The name Chowchilla is derived from a tribe in the area,” school board president Mike Cargill said in a telephone interview with the Sun-Star. “The board thought Tribe was the most inclusive name and closest in keeping with tradition.”

In a 5-0 vote Monday night, the board voted to change the school mascot that, for a century, has been the Redskins.

While the name still keeps Native American ties, the school is complying with the state law passed in 2015 that bans the use of the Redskins mascot at public high schools. The school, however, will continue to use Native American imagery in its logo.

Chowchilla is one of four California high schools affected by the law. Tulare Union High School, Gustine High School and Calaveras High School all dropped the Redskin name. The California Racial Mascots Act, authored by Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, calls for public schools to phase out the team name, mascot or nickname by Jan. 1, 2017.

A staff member for Alejo’s office said Tuesday the assemblyman has stopped commenting publicly on the matter.

Superintendent Ron Seals said that for the past few years, the school has been careful to order sports uniforms and other paraphernalia without the term Redskins. Sports teams currently in playoffs can finish the season as the Redskins, but winter sports teams – such as basketball, soccer and wrestling – will be called Tribe.

Chowchilla’s new nickname was picked from three options: Tribe, Chiefs and Redhawks. Cargill said that while Chiefs was a popular choice among students, the school board felt Tribe was the best choice.

The school took a strong stance against the law, with school officials explaining that the Redskins name was honored and celebrated by students and community members alike.

“With the politically correct society we have now, we felt we had to comply,” Cargill said.

The city of Chowchilla in October hung honorary signs that said “Redskin Way” over Humboldt Avenue signs, where Chowchilla High is located, ahead of the school’s centennial celebration and homecoming game.

Tulare Union High also chose to be known as the Tribe; Gustine decided to return to its original nickname, the Reds; and Calaveras chose no nickname, retaining the Native American logo but choosing to be known simply as Calaveras High.

The Fresno Bee contributed to this report.

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