Columnists, Jon Caldara, Politics

Caldara: The state erases history at Arvada high school

(You can listen to this column, read by the author, here.)

Kill the Redskins!

Remember the scene from Charlton Heston’s “The 10 Commandments” where the pharaoh orders Moses’ name stricken from the history books? The state of Colorado is now pharaoh. So let it be written, so let it be done.

Arvada High School has been around for more than 100 years, one of the oldest high schools in Colorado. Its physical location has moved around as the city has grown, but since 1920 it’s been a source of pride for many students, teachers and graduates.

It’s traditional mascot name, “the Redskins,” was dropped in 1993 in favor of the more politically correct (and maybe more metaphorically accurate) “Reds.”

A few years later, “Reds” was changed to the criminally milquetoast, “Bulldogs.” But with today’s discrimination against pit bulls, including cities that ban them, that name too might be offensive to a future generation.

But this isn’t the story of a school dropping an offensive mascot name. This is the story of the state requiring history be scrubbed from the records.

Arvada High has what it calls its “museum.” It’s not actually a museum. It’s mostly a large trophy case with artifacts from the school’s history, including the original front door of the first high school. The exhibit items were gifted from past generations of graduates. It even holds a history booklet telling the tale of their mascot.

After the school building was completed in 1922, vocational agriculture and welding teacher Thomas D. Vanderhoof built the football field and started a team. A student from the time said, “The dye from the red football jerseys stained our skin. A young girl noticed this and told Coach Van that we looked like Redskins.”

A mascot was born.

Even though another history compilation says the area’s Native Americans liked the new name, so long as the football team “always fought fairly,” it was obviously born out of pure hate and racism.

So given for three-quarters of its existence everything at Arvada High School was adorned with Indian-themed emblems and words, like the school newspaper, “The Redskin Arrow,” it’s no surprise three-quarters of its museum’s contents are emblazoned with those emblems and words.

So, in good old-fashioned book burning style, it looks like most of the museum’s 100-year-old content will be removed.

Certainly, you can blame the school administrators for whitewashing history. (See, see what I did there — whitewashing.) But they give the excuse every educrat and concentration camp guard uses: we’re just following orders.

Just like the communists in Russia just had to change Stalingrad’s name to Leningrad, the communists in the Colorado state legislature just have to rewrite history.

In 2021, the governor signed Senate Bill 116 which outlawed naming public schools and mascots after Indians or face a $25,000-a-month fine. The Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs got the privilege to decide what we should find offensive.

So, good thing Arvada High dropped its Redskins moniker in 1993. Right?

In October, the Jefferson County School District got a love letter from the commission notifying them they voted to put Arvada High on its hit list for a mascot they haven’t had in three decades.

(How cool is it this commission has the word “Indian” in it, yet runs around commanding people to ban the word “Indian”?)

They informed Jeffco, “The ‘use’ of a prohibited American Indian mascot may include, but is not limited to, a school’s display or depiction of such a mascot on its grounds, physical buildings, letterhead, website, tangible property or equipment even if the prohibited American Indian mascot no longer serves as the school’s official mascot.”

Funny, I can’t find any of that last part in Senate Bill 116.

So, Arvada High’s historical items, and all the lessons about racism they teach, will likely go.

And this revisionism is not just in the schools. It’s in a city park where SB-116 doesn’t apply, only identity politics does.

Years ago, alumni paid for a boulder with a large metal plaque honoring the site of the original Arvada High School. But it was stained with the Redskins moniker. The boulder is still there. The large metal plaque has been ripped off.

I’ve been told it’s sitting in the Arvada city manager’s office.

Forget school pride. Sterilizing history condemns the young to repeat it. Good work, guys.

Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.


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