NAPA, Calif. (KTVU) - Napa High School will mark the end of this school year with the end of its longtime mascot.
The Indian, a 120 year tradition, will be retired and replaced, by unanimous vote Thursday night by the school board.
"The mascot has been a wound on me, on my spirit, " said one man, speaking during an hour of public comment before the vote.
The board room was packed, with many Napa High alumni supporting the mascot, and many Native American advocates opposing it.
"There is no honor in being stereotyped," declared one woman, "and there is no honor in being locked into an image of what you think we are."
Implored a young man, a NHS grad, "I don't think our kids have to grow up the way I grew up."
State law as of 2015 bans racial imagery in public school sports, so the change has been brewing for awhile.
An advisory committee, and the superintendent, recommended last year that the mascot be replaced, as a demeaning and discriminatory symbol.
Past public discussions were volatile, and the last meeting in April 2017, drew hundreds of people to the school auditorium, many shouting over each other.
The issue was tabled, until the board abruptly decided to act this week.
"This is not a feeling of wanting to be derogatory or diminish anyone, it's quite the contrary," said one
man, speaking in favor of the mascot.
Those trying to save it, argued the Indian is admired and honored on campus.
"I believe this whole mascot mess is due to political correctness and this whole meeting is a sham," snorted one speaker.
Other speakers warned that the district can't afford to re-brand Napa High at a time when it has a $12 million deficit.
"It's the high school, memorial stadium, administration building, lost revenues, and painting, we're
talking a lot of stuff," noted one woman.
And for some Napans, weary of the debate, it's a divisive issue, not worth the angst.
"I don't want Napa strong, I want Napa stronger, I don't want people to feel disrespected by a mascot, let's move to the future," said one speaker.
In February 2019, the district will begin choosing a new mascot, a process it promises will be collaborative, involving staff, students, and future students now in lower grades.