Anaheim High Students Vote to Keep “Colonists” Name and Mascot

Anaheim High School’s overwhelmingly Latino student body has rejected a bid to scrap the school’s 100-year-old “Colonists” nickname. A petition has called the moniker a symbol of racism, exploitation, and cultural genocide that perpetuates generational trauma.

The vote took place Nov. 9 after five days of deliberation and lesson plans centered around the history of the name. The project took place during social studies and English courses, the Los Angeles Times reports

Over those five days, students learned that the name “Colonists” refers to a group of idealistic vinters who founded the ill-fated winemaking colony that would become Anaheim in the 1800s.

“The term ‘Colonist’ has always represented the early settlers who founded the ‘Mother Colony’ of Anaheim,” according to a counter-petition that was circulated by author-historian J’amie Rubio.

“The student body at Anaheim High has proven today that school spirit is alive and well, and that they know the true history behind the Colonist name is not one that is offensive, or racist, as a small group has tried to claim,” Rubio said after the vote. “Instead it is a symbol of the founders of Anaheim who came to the area from a foreign land and literally built something out of nothing.”

The nickname may be innocuous, but it’s hard to interpret the school's mascot so generously. As you can see here, he looks more like an actual colonist (with muskets), not a winemaker. A third option to keep the name but drop the mascot was rejected by students.

The focus on cultural and historical sensitivities has led a number of schools to change their nicknames and mascots in recent years. At times, these efforts have been criticized as going too far. The San Francisco Board of Education, for instance, received backlash after it voted to rename 44 schools, including one named after a sitting Democratic senator and another named after Abraham Lincoln. What began as an earnest movement to address historical injustices is increasingly billed as an obnoxious trapping of “cancel culture.”

While student opinions will be taken into consideration, district officials will have the final say on the Colonists' fate. Another board meeting will be held Thursday, Nov. 18 and students in favor of changing the name and mascot are expected to make their voices heard.