by Joe Vazquez

CROCKETT (KPIX) — A Native American advocacy group is cheering the removal of a mascot from a Bay Area high school.

Though several people spoke against the change at Wednesday night’s meeting, the John Swett Unified School District Board decided that John Swett High School in Crockett would no longer use the name “Indians” for their teams’ mascot. The school district has not yet chosen a new mascot.

“I believe that John Swett Unified School District took responsible action in voting unanimously to remove the mascot,” said Angel Heart, spokesperson for the Sacred Sites Protection and Rights of Indigenous Tribes, a Native American group that lobbied the school to change its mascot.

“I would like to tell other school districts to take a good look at their own school vision statement and to see how this compares to the message or education they are providing their students by keeping Native American mascots,” Heart said.

The John Swett High School decision follows a similar one in Vallejo in February, 2014. The school board there decided to drop the “Apaches” mascot. Vallejo High School’s new mascot is the “Redhawks.”

Heart said her group’s advocacy in the Bay Area is part of a nationwide movement to call on sports teams to reject names considered offensive. Last fall, the group demonstrated at Levis Stadium, calling upon the Washington NFL team to drop its “Redskins” moniker.

“The use of Native American names and/or symbols by non-native sports teams is a harmful form of ethnic stereotyping that promotes misunderstanding and prejudice which contributes to other problems faced by Native Americans,” Heart said.

A group called American Indian Cultural Support lists 184 California schools with Native American mascots, although the website appears to be out of date since it does not reflect the changes made by John Swett and Vallejo high schools.

“Napa is next,” she added, referring to the Napa High School Indians. No talks with Napa school officials are scheduled, she added.

A John Swett school district staffer confirmed the board’s decision but said the superintendent was unavailable Thursday.

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