Justin-Siena works with Wappo tribe to create 'Braves' mascot

2011-04-09T20:51:00Z 2012-11-15T20:00:48Z Justin-Siena works with Wappo tribe to create 'Braves' mascotVICTORIA ROSSI Napa Valley Register
April 09, 2011 8:51 pm  • 

When Justin-Siena students sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” before games, they’re waiting for the last part of that last line.

As the crowd sings out, “And the home of the ...,” everyone in the stands takes a deep breath to yell out the next word: “Braves!”

This exuberance makes sense, given that Justin-Siena students are called the Braves. But it also compensates for the fact that they’re Braves in name only. They don’t have a mascot.

In the mid-1990s, administrators did away with the private Catholic high school’s Native American mascot, worried that some would take offense to the image.

But this year, the school and the Mishewal-Wappo Tribal Council are bringing back a version they hope will prove more historically accurate and respectful.

The Mishewal-Wappo, it turns out, may have lived on the very fields that Justin-Siena students now trample with their soccer cleats. And the name “Wappo” derives from a Spanish word: “guapo,” which means handsome or, colloquially, “brave.”

“It was providential,” said Bob Bailey, the school’s vice principal.

A few months earlier, school President Robert Jordan contacted the leader of the Mishewal-Wappo Tribal Council to see if it would endorse an emblem that recognized the Wappo Indians. The school would not go forward with its plans without the council’s approval of the design, he said.

Scott Gabaldon, the tribal chairman, said he was “honored” by the call — and that it was “really nice” of the school to ask.

Though there has been controversy about Native American mascots in the past, Gabaldon said he “doesn’t see the big deal.”

“You always see a mascot as something honorable,” he said, “and if they use a mascot in an honorable way, I have no problem with that.”

The five students on the redesign committee have taken their task seriously, partly because this is not the school’s first attempt to resurrect its mascot. Senior Bridget Abshear took part in a mascot redesign committee as a freshman, when a reinterpretation of the word “Brave” faltered.

Students weren’t impressed with the suggested red, white and blue American eagle, Abshear said.

“How is that brave?” some wanted to know. “We might as well be the Eagles.” But no one wanted to be the Eagles, she said; they wanted to be the Braves.

“We needed to come up with a respectful image, not a stereotype,” said Lupe Padilla-Aguayo, a junior on the cheerleading squad, sitting with the other four students in the school’s welcome center.

So instead of the eagle feathers of spaghetti Western fame, a more appropriate headdress would be fashioned from quail feathers. “They aren’t Plains Indians,” she said.

“It was a change of pace,” senior Megan Castellucci said, to learn about Native Americans who lived in and around Napa Valley.

Abshear, who might be called the group’s lead historian, visited the Napa Valley Museum in Yountville and the Sonoma County History and Genealogical Library, among other locations, to research what little is known about the tribe.

A picture of who the Mishewal-Wappo had been before Spanish diseases reduced their numbers to 35 at the turn of the century emerged from the students’ research: The Wappo were the traders of Northern California, who used obsidian for their weapons and shells as their currency. They were some of the area’s oldest inhabitants, Abshear said.

The students found other ways in which the Wappos fit with Justin-Siena’s school culture. Just like the school’s students, “They prayed before everything they did.”

Of course, there have been a few design hang-ups. Because of the valley’s moderate climate, for instance, “We’re running into the problem that they didn’t wear much clothing,” Abshear said.

So, there may be a few points in which artistic interpretation wins over historical accuracy.

The group submitted its research to a Napa design team, who will roll out a few options in the coming weeks and submit them to the Wappo council for approval.

If all goes according to plan, Abshear will look for the results of their research as early as next year’s homecoming game, when she and the rest of the group hope to see a mascot on the football field, helping the cheerleaders to fire up the fans. Or at least an emblem painted on the side of their gym.

The results may not please everyone, said junior Garrett Adair, but they are being very careful to get their details right — “down to the quail feathers on the headdress.”

Adair probably doesn’t have much to worry about from Gabaldon’s end. Gabaldon likes the idea of some good press for the Mishewal-Wappo.

His group has been in the news recently, having sued the federal government to receive tribal status. Napa and Sonoma counties are opposing tribal status, fearing it might someday result in a tribal casino in the area.

Gabaldon said he’s flattered at the idea of a mascot based on his tribe. “To me, it’s representing something that you like,” he said. “You’ll never see a Napa snail.”

Besides, he said, the Braves would be following in some fiercely competitive footsteps. Though the Wappo were historically peaceful, Gabaldon said, “They never lost a war.”

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(17) Comments

  1. Report Abuse
    - April 10, 2011 4:49 am
    The head man for the Wappo is correct the Wappo never lost a war. In fact the great battle they fought was against Salvador Vallejo near Healdsburg. Vallejo had 1600 hundred Troops and Indian Auxiliaries. The Wappo entrenched on a mountain side taking the high ground. Vallejo's artillery could not project and his troops had to battle uphill. This continued for six months to a stand-still leaving Vallejo the only option, and that was to withdraw, after he had lost so many of his troops. The early anthropologists and historians have claimed that California Indians were not a warrior society. That they mostly gathered their food and moved from one resource area to another. The battle of Healdsburg challenges that claim disproving the claim. The Wappo Warriors at that battle were less than 150.
  2. magnum
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    magnum - April 10, 2011 9:43 am
    It's a name for a mascot...let's not get carried away.
  3. NapaCitizen
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    NapaCitizen - April 10, 2011 10:41 am
    The "so-called" christian missionaries ran boarding schools not that long ago. Indian children were "removed" from their families, their hair cut, their language forbidden, physical and sexual abuse, and more.

    Perhaps this "Catholic" school could use a mascot more appropriate for them...."The Popes", The Cardinals, etc....

    I'm appalled.
  4. Report Abuse
    - April 10, 2011 1:09 pm
    @Napa Citizen, while I see your passion your facts are not correct. What you are referring too is the "Assimulation Act" of the later 1800's and early 1900's, which was facilitated by Protestant Religious groups. The Catholics were present during the Franciscan period, evidenced by the Franciscan Based Churches. Much of the Assimulation Acts were facilitated in the east and mid west. The California Indians/ Native Peoples were part of the Mission's of California. Then as California became a state the native Peoples were given "Ranchera's" (reservations). An excellent book to read on the topic is "Indians, Franciscans and Spanish Colonization", by Jackson and Castillo. And yes I agree it is about the mascot, however I wanted to point out why the Spanish paid tribute to the Wappo by respecting that they were fierce Warriors. The mascot inherits a great tradition.
  5. alixzander
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    alixzander - April 10, 2011 1:34 pm
    Its nice of the school to ask the tribe.

    However, if I were a part of the Wappo tribe I would have slapped who ever thought of the idea.

    These people came to their land, committed genocide against their people, and spread diseases, and now they want to use their people as a mascot?

    I find that extremely disturbing.
  6. Martinez
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    Martinez - April 10, 2011 2:20 pm
    Just because they are a religious school they can get away with anything even using a NATIVE AMERICAN(Human Being)as a mascot.
    Why not be the Justin Siena Jesus's or something?
  7. itsroutine
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    itsroutine - April 10, 2011 5:22 pm
    Martinez said: "Disgusting.Just because they are a religious school they can get away with anything even using a NATIVE AMERICAN(Human Being)as a mascot.Why not be the Justin Siena Jesus's or something?"

    Seriously. Let's get rid of the "Fighting Irish" while we're at it.
  8. JCampbell
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    JCampbell - April 10, 2011 9:01 pm
    Martinez said: "Disgusting.Just because they are a religious school they can get away with anything even using a NATIVE AMERICAN(Human Being)as a mascot.Why not be the Justin Siena Jesus's or something?"

    Being a religious school has nothing to do with it. One of our high schools are the Napa High School Indians and one of our middle schools are the Redwood Middle School Warriors. Both of which have been around for many, many years.

    It used to be very common for schools to have Indians as their mascots and the tradition will no doubt continue on into the future.

    I think Redwood Middle School has already tried to tone down it's mascot a bit and I personally admire Justin Sienna students for doing the same. It's a sign of respect in my personal opinion.
  9. Oldtimenapan
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    Oldtimenapan - April 10, 2011 9:52 pm
    What on earth is the problem with the word Braves? PC is gotten to be totally ridiculous, some people want to live in this extremely vanilla flavored society. Get real, this is life, I always thought the mascot names are cool, I always wanted to be an Indian or a Chief or a Brave, never thought one bad thought about it being an insult toward someone. The whole world is full of slang and nicknames and I don't see anything wrong these types of mascot names.
  10. OK sooner
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    OK sooner - April 11, 2011 6:53 am
    So a School wants to honor a people. If the Wappo feel it demean's them don't use it. Change the mascot to the "brave hearts" and honor the Scots that fought for freedom. I am sure if this happend the Scots would take it as an honor, and the Wappo would take it as a slap in the face that they wre not chosen. It's funny how it is always non-native Americans telling US how WE should feel. Much worse has happend than a school trying to honor a people.
  11. OK sooner
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    OK sooner - April 11, 2011 7:07 am
    Many years ago, before our city fathers decided to GIVE AWAY our artifacts that had been passed down in D.T. Davis's familey, There was a dress that the Wappo had made. I remember it being of doe skin, beads, shells. Maybe if you begged UC Berkley they would return the stuff that BELONGS in Napa so you could get some insight into how they dressed and lived. (this was at least 40 years ago)
  12. OK sooner
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    OK sooner - April 11, 2011 8:50 am
    Oracal. The "head man" for the Wappo is wrong. The Wappo may have never lost a "battle" but they did lose the war. The same can be said for the Chickasaw. As far as California tribes not being war like. I remember reading that George Yount would let the valley tribes take refuge in his fort from the mountian tribes that they were always at war with. This does not sound like a tribe that never lost a war. The Napa historical socity is full of letters and memoirs of founding Fathers like Yount and Davis, go read it's cool.
  13. Report Abuse
    - April 11, 2011 10:26 am
    @Ok Sooner. Are you sure those "indians" that Yount refers to are Wappo? Yount had relationships with Yolotoys, Salerno's, Patwins and Pomo's. But never mentions Wappo. Settler's who recorded interactions with Napa Valley tribes rarely attempted to define tribal affiliations. And to really understand the Wappo's protective distance from encroaching elements you would first have to study the Wappo's first skirmish fought with the Spanish in 1795. That is prior to Yount's arrival in Napa Valley. Also one must consider that many native people's were taken by the Vallejo's as forced labor were not so uniformed as dominant society may see it. They were a mixed lot of different tribes. When reading the history from the first settlers one must have a balanced view and not rely soley on the "generalizations" offered by settler journals. For example when Yount recorded information in concern of the Panademic and he states "there were mounds of dead indians". So which tribes was he describing?
  14. Report Abuse
    - April 11, 2011 10:28 am
    Oh! I thought I would mention the RIDGEVIEW REBELS....
  15. OK sooner
    Report Abuse
    OK sooner - April 11, 2011 11:57 am
    Oracle, I also thought of Ridgeview. My kids came unglued when they saw my old year book full of rebel flags. They wanted to know what "all" the black students thought. What could I say? That there was only one that went there that I knew of, and that was after my time.
  16. Report Abuse
    - April 11, 2011 3:25 pm
    @Ok sooner, sometimes diversity takes a beating does it not? I once had a conversation with good friend of mine a Lakota Doctor Man. And he told me that things like Harley's, Washington Redskins, Atlanta Braves, Chief Brand, Mustang Pony, etc these were all good things to see to remind us all that many of the worldly things we know in this country came with the native people. Buffalo Nickels replaced all of the silver in Navajo beading, that was stolen from the Navajo when they were forced off their land. But as he said it is a good reminder, it all depends on how it is taken in perspective. The young people take on the responsibility to research and understand the Wappo and then communicate with the tribe for their consideration. And the tribe is willing to participate. That is a good thing and shows respect for the tribe and who they are. It is a conscious recognition of a people who have been unrecognized for so long. With the work they have done there is now a tradition given.
  17. Old Time Napkin
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    Old Time Napkin - April 11, 2011 7:46 pm
    I think this a great learning experience for the kids. They will learn about local native americans and in the end they will get their school mascot approved by the Wapoo tribe.
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