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March 2001

Mootown News - Tomales the Brave

By Judy Borello

Having learned about the dispute over the Tomales High School mascot "The Brave," I decided to find out what the community really thought about it.

A handful of people, including Carol Freidman and Carlos Porata, spoke at the last meeting in front of the trustees at the Shoreline Unified School Board meeting.

They spoke about the sensitivity issue of offending Indians.

First of all, it would be ludicrous to ask the Indians per se when we have our own Miwok ancestors right here in Miwok territory (the Tomales Bay Region), and most of then attended Tomales High and certainly sent their children to the school. That became my first priority: to talk with the Miwok descendants that have been our neighbors for years (decades, to be exact). For two years, this debate has gone on with the crux of the matter being, does the mascot "The Brave" insult or offend the Indian? Of course, if you asked 20 different tribes, you'd get 20 different opinions.

The only opinion that really counts is what our local Miwoks (ancestors) and the community think about it. First, I called Suzanne Rocca, who has Miwok ancestors, and she emphatically told me that it is an honor to have "The Braves" as the Tomales High School mascot. The Brave commemorates the Indians that walked this countryside years ago and keeps their memory alive. She said not only she felt strongly about keeping "The Braves" as the official mascot of Tomales High, but that her daughter Debbie and brother Cecil Sanchez felt the same way.

Then I called Virginia Jensen, another Miwok descendent that lived on Tomales Bay for many moons. Her take on the matter is that it would be disrespectful to remove "The Braves" from the high school and that her daughters were so livid that they are thinking of protesting at the high school. To try to appease Native American Groups out of our area is counter productive because it dilutes or goes against what our Miwok Indian ancestors believe and they are the ones that really count.

So my point is that the people who are overly concerned with the sensitivity of the Indians didn't even have the sensitivity to ask or consider our local people of Miwok descent. Subjective speculation for close to two years on this issue could have been nipped in the bud by just finding out what our local Miwoks have to say. If you are debating in your mind what is offensive to an Indian, ask one. And don't ask just any Indian, ask a local one that has lived and schooled their descendants in the Tomales Bay area.

And what about the students at Tomales High, the alumni, and the Booster's Club?

I decided to call some of the local gentry. May Genazzi had in her little mitts a 1950 Tomales Tide Yearbook in which the teams were called The Braves with a picture of one on the cover. There was a picture of the "old" logo, which was a wolf with a sailor's cap — gray sweater with a scarlet design by June Gonella. Helen Bordessa Skinner has her 1951 Tide Yearbook — same thing — the "Brave" logo on the cover. Then I called Joe Mendoza, who had a Tomales High Yearbook from 1936, which called the teams "The Wolves." The Genazzis, the Bordessas, and the Mendozas are all supportive of keeping the mascot "The Braves."

There is a petition to sign at the Old Western Saloon and in the first day we got over 30 signatures from noon until 5 p.m., and 90 percent of the signatures were from people who attended Tomales High and their children too.

The Shoreline school board had a bogus vote on the subject and hadn't even had the input of 1) the people of Miwok ancestry, 2) the over-all student body at Tomales High, 3) the alumni of Tomales High, and 4) the Booster's Club who raise money for the sports at Tomales High. From the Point Reyes Inverness area, the trustees Jim Love, Jim Lino, and Gus Conde voted to oust the Braves.

From Tomales, Clarette Wilson voted "No" on the Braves. Tim Furlong, Eileen Jensen voted "Yes" to the Braves, with Spirito Ballitore not attending.

The trustees were not voted in to have subjective opinions. Their decisions should reflect the community, not just a small segment whose squeaky wheel gets the most oil, because while the trustees have been listening to the squeaks, they will soon hear a roar coming from the community at large—which the trustees should represent.

When I've talked to Miwok people and ladies like May Adams (who has Indian blood in her veins), Jean Kehoe, Scotty Mendoza, and May Genazzi, not only have their husbands attended Tomales High, but their children and their grandchildren.

As for the Lady Braves issue, just call Dolores Grossi Evans, who was one of the greatest girl athletes that ever graduated from Tomales, and ask if it bothered her to be called a "Lady Brave."

In the dictionary, Brave means to face with courage. I believe that either sex who chooses to compete in the area of sports exemplifies courage, and proudly represents "The Braves" in the true meaning of the word.

PS It would be a real travesty to remove "The Brave" mascot after over 50 years of tradition and to go against the will of our born and bred local Miwok ancestors, the students at Tomales High, the Alumni, and the Booster's Club.

Go Braves! The tribe has spoken!

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