The White Mountain Apaches

Since time immemorial, The White Mountain Apaches, also known as WMAT, have been a strong and resilient people. Apaches have fought for our country, and proudly honor their Veterans. Tribe elders work to preserve traditions, values and morals. Apaches retain their culture by learning their native language, ceremonial traditions, songs and dance. Ancestry is passed down to each tribal member, from a unique family clan that identifies their lineage.

We are humbled to have a friendship with the Apache Tribal Chairwomen, Gwendena Lee-Gatewood, who issued a public statement defending the Arcadia High School Apache mascot. Our vision is to share Apache Pride together, while keeping the name.

A Message from Gwendena Lee-Gatewood, Tribal Chairwoman of the White Mountain Apache Tribe

GWENDENA LEE-GATEWOOD
EXECUTIVE OFFICE OF THE CHAIRWOMAN
WHITE MOUNTAIN APACHE TRIBE

October 20, 2021

Arcadia Unified School District
C/O Greg Tober, AHS Alumni
150 South 3rd Avenue
Arcadia, CA 91006

Greetings,
I write to you regarding the on-going discussion about Arcadia High School using the mascot “Apache”. Mascots provide a common label for all students, faculty and alumni, and creates a sense of belonging. A mascot unites everyone under one name, and connects us to each other. The Apache name is a story teller all on its own.

Apaches, from our earliest days, Apache history has been American history. We are the indigenous people who fought for our nation’s independence and still serve in the military today to protect the ideals of what makes America so great. We stand on the shoulders not only on the alumni of Arcadia Apaches, but also countless, nameless heroes who have rightly upheld the name Apache with respect, honor and dignity. We have helped shape American culture, and we have done so in quiet humility. We are proud to honor this rich heritage of ours, and shouldn’t be treated as somehow separate from collective American history or the history of Arcadia High School. Arcadia High School has exhibited talent, academic achievement, competitiveness and sheer tenacity and sportsmanship all in its good name, and never have we been advised that their Apache mascot was treated in disrespect or in vain. The White Mountain Apache people have long had ties with Arcadia High School for over 20 plus years, a relationship built on mutual respect, friendship and dialogue to know one another. Arcadia High School has supported our reservation by doing countless coat drives and gift deliveries to spread Christmas cheer to our people. Our former Tribal Chairman, Ronnie Lupe, who has served as our leader for more than 9 terms, welcomed the students from Arcadia and knew of their mascot, never did he protest the name because the school reflected integrity, respect for its use as they still do today. In fact, speaking about history, that history is tied to Arcadia. Remarkable have been the blessings that have come of its observance to the degree that we have observed it, after all, look all of your accomplishments and academic achievements, the name Apache resonates with it, who could complain about that?

The strength of any community lies in the strength of its families. The strength of any nation lies in the strength of its families. Strong family life comes of strong and clear understanding of who we are, and why we are here, and of what we may eternally become. There are no simple solutions except for greater efforts to educate journalists and public at large about the distinctions of respectful use of a mascot vs. disrespect. Arcadia students, faculty, staff, alumni, the public in general ought to appeal to journalists sense of ethics and right be arguing that good reporting clarifies the difference between the two. In the end, we can make the name shine with luster as it has always been done at Arcadia High School.

Things are happening all over the United States right now that is set to divide us, let us not make this happen here. We must continue to stand together. From humble beginnings we were all one at one time, even the name Apache unites us together. Erasing the name, erases history in the children not yet born who will someday be students at Arcadia. The name Apache would help bring awareness to our people, in a good way, and to teach of our history. Perhaps Arcadia High and our reservation schools can interact and begin to build stronger dialogue to create a stronger future.

We have never objected to the use of the Apache name for Arcadia High School, because it has been represented with respect, and what an honor that has been for us all. We continue to support the continued use of the name. Imagine changing your own last name or your first name, how would your family feel? At marriage it is different, but what a wonderful testament of your roots by your given name, its your own story teller name, just like the name Apache.

May we continue to build our relationship, may we continue to give thanks our Creator for our many blessings, and may our homes be filled with strength through our families. May we have peace, love, compassion and renewed vigor and bringing the greater good as “Apaches”.

Sincerely,

Gwendena Lee-Gatewood
TRIBAL CHAIR
WOMAN
WHITE MOUNTAIN APACHE TRIBE
Whiteriver, Arizona