Times change, so do WJ logos

The+Native+American+carving+outside+the+Commons+will+soon+be+removed+and+replaced+with+a+more+appropriate+sculpture.

WJHS

The Native American carving outside the Commons will soon be removed and replaced with a more appropriate sculpture.

They are seen on our sweatshirts, on the walls of the school, on posters and yard signs. They have been a part of Walsh Jesuit since the very beginning. But now, the Native American iconography and terminology will no longer be tied to the school.

The Walsh Jesuit High School Board of Directors recently announced the decision to remove all Native American references associated with the school due to the possibility that it could be seen as offensive and mocking to Indigenous cultures.

Deciding to retire the Native American iconography tied to the school was a big step for Walsh Jesuit. The Warrior mascot and Native American logos have been the face of the school since it was founded in 1964. In a letter posted on the Walsh Jesuit webpage, the reasoning the warrior was first adopted as the school’s mascot is explained: “As one can read in the past yearbooks and newspapers and was explained to WJ President Karl Ertle, by members of the original classes over a six month dialogue, ‘Warriors’ was selected as a means of celebrating the rich heritage of the Native Americans of the area.”

However, there has been recent opposition from some Native American communities who have protested against the use of their cultures’ images and terminology as mascots for schools and major sports teams. In light of these oppositions, WJ has decided it would be appropriate to remove the Indigenous references to prevent further offense to any Native Americans.

In an email response to questions from The Pioneer, WJ President Karl Ertle said, “It has become clear that times have changed, and we wanted to respect the Indigenous people who have expressed concern. It is a hallmark of Jesuit education to have a preferential option for the marginalized like Native Americans.”

Fifteen years ago there was no realization that the depictions of Native Americans might be offensive to them. But today it’s time to get rid of them. We have to change with the times”

— Ms. Duarte

A lot of the students agree with the decision to retire the Indigenous imagery and think it is a step in the right direction for the school. They are glad to be a part of a school that is willing to change years of tradition to be more inclusive and respectful of other cultures.

“Personally, I agree with Walsh’s decision because, even though it doesn’t affect me directly, I can see how it can offend members of Native American communities,” said senior Chris Richter.

And even though many students here cannot directly relate to Native Americans and their struggle to protect their culture, the students still agree that retiring the Indigenous references is the right decision.

Senior Abby Semancik said, “I can’t speak for everyone because I’m not a part of the targeted community, but I personally agree with Walsh’s decision to take away the Native American imagery in our logos because of the potential of it being taken in a discriminatory manner.”

However, not all students feel the change is necessary. Some believe the Indigenous iconography tied to Walsh’s tradition is a sign of respect toward the Native American communities of this area.

This mural was ceremoniously painted over on May 13th in a small event which took place right after school. Taryn Miller, ’22, Michael Mba, ’22, Gabriella Podlogar, ’22, and Julia Norby, ’24, roll the brushes on behalf of all students at this historic event (named from left to right). (WJHS)

“I do not think it’s necessary because I personally don’t think that it invokes racism towards Native Americans. I think it honors their culture rather than mocks it,” said a senior student who asked that his name not be used.

Although the school has decided to get rid of the traditional mascot, the administration has assured us that we will continue to be known as the Walsh Jesuit Warriors. However, changing our logo means changing a lot of the artwork around the school. Plans were made to paint over the Warrior murals created by Carly Rockwell (’06) and to remove the statue outside of the Commons.

“The date was May 13 for the murals—I have worked with her [Carly] for several years, and it is a good step in the right direction. The Seneca tribute out front will receive a new home, and we have a new piece of art that will take its place—cut from the same tree,” said Mr. Ertle

Similar to a ribbon cutting ceremony, the event included students from Student Government and the Diversity Club painting the first ceremonial strokes over the Warrior mural in the stairway adjacent to the library. Along with these students, Mrs. Crenshaw, Mr. Ertle, Ms. Duarte, and Marketing and Communications Director Ms. Danielle Margheret were also present at the occasion.

“Students painted on formal strokes covering the existing mural as a visual representation of us moving forward and being committed to changing our mascot to a less offensive image,” said Mrs. Crenshaw.

This mural, in addition to the others in the school, will be completely painted over and replaced this summer. (WJHS)

Eventually, a new design will be painted in place of the old murals. A contest was held by the marketing department and Mr. Ertle to choose what the new iconography will be. More than 30 designs were submitted, and from those a top five will be chosen. It has not yet been determined when the contest winners or new design will be announced.

Ms. Duarte, who supervised Carly when she first painted the murals in 2006, has expressed her support for the repainting of the walls, saying that they are no longer appropriate.

“At the time, it seemed like a really neat thing to do for the school to celebrate our Warrior tradition, and we were proud of the finished products,” said Ms. Duarte. “Fifteen years ago there was no realization that the depictions of Native Americans might be offensive to them. But today it’s time to get rid of them. We have to change with the times.”

Along with the artwork, the outerwear featuring Native American references will also change. Clothing items with new logos will be available for sports teams and in the Spirit Shop. Although encouraged to purchase clothing with the new logos, students will not be required to do so. Also, the past tradition of students painting up for sports games and singing along to Indigenous chants and cheers will no longer be acceptable.

Cultural awareness is an important part of the Walsh Jesuit mission. Continuing a culture of respect and equality throughout the school is a major aspect of incorporating Ignatian values in the lives of the students.

Over the next few years, the school will be creating a heritage display set up in the Baine Library to showcase the tradition of the Seneca who lived in this area.