All Indian Nicknames May Be Prohibited

Ripon Indians players (left) celebrate after winning 2019 CIF NorCal D4AA championship. At right, Hart Indians’ QB Nick Moore breaks loose during game in 2017. Photos: Mark Tennis &

As Hart High of Newhall voted this week to change next year to Hawks, other schools in the state still using Indians’ nicknames may have to change by 2026 due to a new assembly bill published this week and under review. Apaches, Braves, Chiefs and Comanches are also specifically mentioned in the new version of California Racial Mascots Act.



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Members of the Santa Clarita Valley community are well aware of the tug-and-pull of various people regarding the Hart High Indians nickname in recent years. Abandoning a long-held school nickname also can be a contentious issue in any school board meeting.

The school, founded in the 1940s and named for actor William S. Hart, has been known as the Indians since it began. Many schools across the state, such as in the L.A. Unified School District, have retired the Indians nickname or related Indian nicknames in recent years. Others have not, including schools in Palm Springs, Marysville and Ripon.

This week, Hart High principal Jason d’Autremont announced that students and staff had voted for the school to adopt “Hawks” as its new nickname beginning with the 2024-25 school year. They voted for Hawks over another nominated name, Bison, but there was still a significant number of staff and students that wanted no change. The no change option was not considered because the school board voted in 2021 that the name had to be changed from Indians to something else by 2025.

If Assembly Bill 3074 were to become law (with no major changes), Lompoc High could become Home of the Rockets (our choice). Photo: Cal-Hi Sports archives.

One local activist, Steve Petzold, told the Santa Clarita Valley Signal that he would continue to work toward Hart High maintaining its Indian nickname.

“I’m going to continue to work in a mild-mannered way to make sure that our rights under the education code and under the bylaws of the Hart district are respected,” Petzold told the newspaper. “The ‘Hawk’ might be a good idea as a mascot, but there’s no reason to eliminate the word ‘Indian’ from the lexicon here at Hart (High).”

There could be a bigger reason coming soon, however, for Hart, Palm Springs, Ripon, Marysville and more to eliminate the Indian nickname. It may be prohibited by California law.

Current law, based on a 2016 piece of legislation that was signed by then Gov. Jerry Brown, is known as the Racial Mascots Act. It prohibited specifically the use of the term Redskins as a nickname for any California high school. Schools that had to come up with something else were a list of only four schools and all complied, although Calaveras High in San Andreas decided to switch to no nickname. The others, Gustine, Chowchilla and Tulare, became Reds, Tribe and Tribe, respectively.

The Racial Mascots Act is now currently being reviewed under a new piece of legislation, introduced last month and published earlier this week on the state legislature website. The updated law, as it is currently shown, would prohibit public schools in the state from using “any derogatory Native American term, as defined, as a school or athletic team name, mascot or nickname, except for a public school operated by an Indian tribe or a tribal organization.”

The new assembly bill, A.B. 3074, introduced by members Pilar Schiavo (D-San Fernando) and James C. Ramos (D-Highland) and co-authored by member David Alvarez (D-Chula Vista), specifically mentions many other nicknames other than Redskins. It includes, but says it may not be limited to, Apaches, Big Reds, Braves, Chiefs, Chieftains, Chippewa, Comanches, Indians, Savages, Squaw and Tribe.

The California Interscholastic Federation is aware of the updated assembly bill regarding nicknames, but cautioned that it is a piece of legislation that is undergoing review and is not ready for a vote. “We are ready to assist the authors in any way we can to help,” public relations officer Rebecca Brutlag told Cal-Hi Sports.

Reviewing all of the schools in the state from our own Cal-Hi Sports database shows the following schools that could have to change their school nicknames if A.B. 3074 in its current form would become law:

The home crowd at Tom Flores Stadium in Sanger was pumped up throughout during game between Apaches and San Mateo Serra in 2016. Photo:

Alta Loma Braves
Arcadia Apaches
Baldwin Park Braves
Canyon (Anaheim) Comanches
Centennial (Compton) Apaches
Chowchilla Tribe
Clairemont (San Diego) Chieftains
El Cajon Valley (El Cajon) Braves
Fullerton Indians
Greenville Indians
Hamilton (Hamilton City) Braves
Happy Camp Indians
Lompoc Braves
Marysville Indians
Maricopa Indians
Norte Vista (Riverside) Braves
Palm Springs Indians
Ripon Indians
Sanger Apaches
Santa Fe (Santa Fe Springs) Chiefs
Tomales Braves
Tulare Tribe

Noli Indian School (San Jacinto) Braves & Sherman Indian School (Riverside) Braves would seem to be exempt from the possible new law.

The law also wouldn’t apply to private schools so the massively successful football powerhouse St. John Bosco Braves of Bellflower wouldn’t have to change, nor would the Palma Chieftains of Salinas.

Some private schools, like Salesian of Richmond, which just played in the CIF state basketball finals, have switched nicknames, in its case from Chieftains to Pride.

There are costs associated with a school having to change its nickname and those are addressed in the legislation.

There also is a section in the proposed legislation that the new rules “shall not apply to a public school that receives written consent from a local federally recognized tribe to use a derogatory Native American term for the school or an athletic team name, mascot, or nickname.”

The state also should look into some kind of exception for the two schools, Chowchilla and Tulare, that already switched their nicknames due to the new law from 2016 and may have to again.

As the CIF mentioned, this new law is far from being voted on by the state legislature and a final version isn’t known, but it could impact more than just the four schools for Redskins. The more than 20 of them should know that it could be coming.

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports

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