New Name Change

Tom Tom Staff Editorial

The Bellevue East student newspaper staff has attempted to change the publication name of the “The Tom Tom.” The staff decision came after a lot of consideration and some criticism. Part of the reason that the staff would like to change the name is that we would like to unify both the paper copy and our online edition under the same name. Currently, the online edition of the newspaper is called “The Chieftain Spear” and the print edition is called “The Tom Tom.” However, our biggest reason for wanting to change the name was because we want to respect Native Americans and their culture. 

For those who are not aware, the “Tom Tom” newspaper is named after a drum. Small hand drums for either musical or decorative purposes are the ones commonly referred to as “tomtoms” by non-native people. However, tomtom is not a word the Native Americans came up with, but rather an old British word for a child’s drum toy.  The real drums in native culture seem to be a very important part of their way of life. They can be large, sometimes ranging from 2 to 3 feet in diameter, and are played by Native American men while they stand in a circle. We do not feel it is respectful to continue to use a name that not only references native culture, but also does so incorrectly. 

Before implementing any name change, the newspaper staff asked our adviser, Stephenie Conley, if we needed permission to do so. Conley sought guidance from school administration who looked into the possibility, and she received notification that we would not be permitted to change the name at this time. 

Over the past few years, the issue of Native people being used as mascots has been a highly debated topic, one that does not seem to be a top priority for the school or district, as native names, phrases and imagery have been used for years with absolutely nothing being done about changing it. The justification often used for keeping the Chieftain as the school’s mascot is because of tradition. 

The Chieftain has always been what represented Bellevue High School and then Bellevue East. While traditions play an important part in shaping culture, this doesn’t excuse the fact that they have the potential to be harmful. According to Stephanie Fryberg, a professor at the University of Arizona, using Native American as mascots can cause negative impacts on the self-esteem of young Natives.  “American Indian mascots are harmful not only because they are often negative, but because they remind American Indians of the limited ways in which others see them. This in turn restricts the number of ways American Indians can see themselves,” Fryberg said. If even a small amount of Native Americans are clearly stating they do not want to be used as mascots, why are we as non-natives arguing with them? 

At the end of the day it all comes down to respect. It is 2020, we are in a new decade. If now is not the time for change, then when will it be?