Different backgrounds bring different views on the “Tribe”

Three unique views following the announcement of the student cheering section’s name change

GBHS+students+and+alumni+share+their+opinions+on+the+student+cheering+section%27s+name+change.

Tribe instagram

GBHS students and alumni share their opinions on the student cheering section’s name change.

By Justin Ha, Granite Bay High School

In recent years, there has been discussion of changing the student section name from Tribe to one that is more favorable due to the concerns that the name Tribe can be viewed as insensitive towards Native Americans. On October 20th, the Tribe Instagram page posted a photo with a caption confirming that the name would be changing and offered several alternatives. Within hours, this post garnered a large backlash, and over the course of the next week, it attained almost 2,000 comments. Here are a few reactions from a variety of backgrounds.

Alumni

Matthew Wilson graduated with the class of 2020 and has begun his college experience at UCLA, but once again finds himself involved with Granite Bay High School.

Unfortunately, it isn’t for the right reasons.

The GBHS student section name change brought Wilson back to debate with his previous cohorts over the internet.

“I think the name change has been a long time coming,” Wilson said. “Considering that many Native Americans dislike the usage of the word, I am disappointed that it took so long to rename the Tribe.”

A portion of the almost 2,000 comments on the Tribe Instagram post that announced the name change criticized alumni, like Wilson, for being so involved in a school they no longer attend. Wilson, however, believes that alumni still have the right to voice their opinions, but is concerned with the number of uninformed opinions circling the conversation.

Considering that many Native Americans dislike the usage of the word, I am disappointed that it took so long to rename the Tribe.”

— Matthew Wilson

“The problem is that the loudest voices are the alumni that are completely uneducated on indigenous issues,” Wilson said. “I’ve done my research on the issue. It is safe to say that a majority of the alumni involved with the issue did not.”

With hindsight, Wilson feels disappointed with the behavior and the legacy that students are leaving.

“Granite Bay students and alumni associate the word ‘tribe’ with school spirit, hanging out with friends, and showing off how rich their parents are during the ‘rich out,’” Wilson said.

Wilson acknowledges the name’s importance at GBHS, but that importance is far outweighed by the cultural significance it has for Native Americans.

“The name of the student section is apparently crucial, but it should be trivial,” Wilson said. “The voices of Native Americans must be the loudest. Non-Native Americans do not dictate the views of natives.”

Indigenous Student

A common argument made by those in favor of the name change is that non-Native Americans should not have a say in this decision and that Native Americans should be dictating the future of the “Tribe”.

Interestingly, it is the Native Americans who are missing from these conversations.

In the almost 2,000 comments debating the future of the student section name, only eight commenters explicitly stated that they were of indigenous descent, and most of those comments were in favor of keeping the name.

One of those comments was from senior Makayla Sanchez.

Sanchez is an Ohlone Indian in the Muwekma tribe of the San Francisco area. She personally believes that the change is unnecessary.

“As an indigenous person, I do not feel offended in any way,” Sanchez said. “Tribe is my family and so I think the students at Granite Bay being called the Tribe is perfect.”

Tribe is my family and so I think the students at Granite Bay being called the Tribe is perfect.”

— Makayla Sanchez

Sanchez wants to include as many voices as possible in the conversation but is concerned that some people will not be representing her culture fairly.

“If a student is explaining to others that the name Tribe is offensive to Native Americans, I think that’s interesting,” Sanchez said, “…because they themselves are not Native American, and in most cases have [been] living in the bubble.”

This discrepancy between what bystanders are commenting and how Native Americans feel seems to be larger than just the Tribe. In a poll done by the Washington Post, 90 percent of Native Americans were not offended by the term “redskin” as it pertained to the football team.

“If you are not an indigenous person in an actual tribe, you should not be saying how offensive this is and how this is 2020 [and] we can’t offend anyone,” Sanchez said. “Granite Bay doesn’t seem to care about a lot of other cultures and/or races so why now do you decide that the tribe is offensive to us?”

Student Athlete

GBHS senior and football player Talsen Smith was caught in the crossfire of the name controversy, and while he doesn’t feel comfortable sharing his opinion on the name change itself, he still has a lot to say about this historic event.

Smith is concerned with how others are downplaying the importance of the name Tribe after it has been engrained in the modern-day GBHS culture. As an athlete, he feels a special connection to the spirit that the name carries.

“Yes of course the name has an extreme importance to all athletes on campus and many students,” Smith said. “It is the name that thousands of students have worn on their shirts and has been the student section for hundreds of sporting events.”

To him, it is clear that the name is worth more than what others are making it out to be.

“I believe that there has been such an outcry over the name because of the immense history and the positive impact the name has had on thousands of students,” Smith said.

I believe that there has been such an outcry over the name because of the immense history and the positive impact the name has had on thousands of students.”

— Talsen Smith

Even more worrisome are the negative effects that changing the name may have on the school spirit. It is evident that this issue is creating massive division throughout the student body.

Smith believes that one of the factors that contributed to this division is the administration backing the decision.

“Another reason [for the outcry] is the poor way that administration has handled the situation by giving the leaders very limited time and support,” Smith said. “They have not worked with the students and have taken the Tribe away in a time where we don’t even know if we are going to have a season this year.”

Regardless of opinion, Smith wants as many seats at the table for discussion and encourages voices from a variety of backgrounds to participate in this monumental event.

“I feel that anyone, no matter their race, ethnicity or historical upbringing, should not have their voice oppressed,” Smith said. “It is people’s duty to stand and speak for those who can not speak for themselves.”

This story was originally published on GraniteBayToday.org on November 12, 2020.