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A Mascot for the Braves


While known as the Braves since the school’s inception in 1966, Justin-Siena has not had an actual mascot for nearly twenty years. An athletic moniker only goes so far to engender school spirit, and students and other members of the community have been pushing to have an official school mascot in recent years. At the recent parent meeting President Robert Jordan shared an announcement about a mascot. “Justin-Siena is proud to say that the Braves will soon have a mascot again—one that celebrates not only the history of the school, but also the history of the valley—and the community couldn’t be more excited.”

First, some history. School administration recognizes the impact a mascot can have on reflecting school ideals. In this light, administrators in the 90s elected to eliminate the Braves’ Native American motif in response to a national movement at the time to use care and caution when using a mascot bearing any sort of human likeness. While not being misused in any way, the original Braves’ mascot depicting a Native American was eliminated at that time to avoid any misconstrued notions regarding intent and respect.

There have been several attempts in recent school history to resurrect the idea of a mascot. Committees have been formed, students and alumni have been polled, and various ideas have been cast ranging from a totally new moniker and mascot to a re-imagined representation of the Braves. No idea ever emerged that garnered enough excitement to move the process forward, and in the meantime, season after season of a mascot-less athletic program passed.

Throughout the various phases of mascot research one theme was common (especially for alumni): not to abandon the original Braves. Committed to pursuing a mascot for the Braves in an authentic and respectful way, President Jordan wanted to talk to the very people the school would be representing to seek their input on the viability of a Braves mascot. “With a little research we learned that the Wappo Indians once inhabited this land, and with a little more research we located a local Tribal Council. I contacted Scott Gabaldon, Tribal Chairman for the Wappo Indians, and he was thrilled to hear of our idea to embrace the Braves as a school mascot; a partnership was formed,” continued Jordan.

Fast-forward to the recent address to parents, President Jordan shared the following: “The school has been, is now, and will always be the Home of the Braves.” President Jordan told parents about his conversation with Mr. Gabaldon and how excited and honored the Council is to have Justin-Siena be the home of the Braves in a way that tells their story and allows Justin-Siena to remain true to the school’s history. “It’s a win-win situation,” said Jordan. “Their tribe has nearly been extinguished due to a declining population, and the Tribal Council is committed to preserving the history and culture of their people. Their ‘blessing’ is the ultimate stamp of approval that we are moving in the right direction.”

Enthusiastically Jordan continued, “Wappo actually means ‘brave,’ and so it couldn’t be more fitting. The tribal leaders are working with us to create the visual identity in a way that celebrates the essence of their people; and the timing couldn’t be more perfect for a student body hungry for a mascot.”

The school is currently working with a local design company for the actual style and design, but the research informing this design has come from the members of the Wappo Tribal Council and the school’s own student research. Thrilled with the reality of having a mascot, several student leaders conducted some thorough research of a somewhat spotty, and mostly oral history of the Wappos. After speaking to local historians, visiting museums, and gleaning information from books on local Native American history, students surmised a number of important pieces of information. Talk about a great social studies project!

“Characterized as a peaceful people, hard-working, and community oriented, the Wappo held many traits that we as a Catholic Lasallian school can relate to. The importance of prayer, respect for the land and all its creatures, and a culture that held community the institution of family in high regard, got me thinking that this is a great pairing,” shared senior Megan Castellucci ’11 in a recent presentation made to school administration. “Word is getting out around school that a mascot is being designed, and people are really excited.”

According to Director of Communications, Eileen Mize, the unveiling of the Braves’ new mascot is planned for this summer, in time for a proper introduction at the start of the new school year. “What is really exciting about embracing a culture such as the Wappo as the basis for our school mascot is all the various aspects of school life that can be involved. Not only will this impact spirit at athletic events in a visual way, but also this mascot theme lends itself to musical involvement in the form of drums, whistles, and song; and it also lends itself to ongoing opportunities to educate people about the Wappos. It’s all very exciting,” said Mize.

Junior and member of the cheer team Lupe Padilla-Aguayo ’12 talked about how her coach and squad were looking into bringing back the school fight song and other ways to incorporate the theme. Senior Dwight Boyko ’11 commented on being able to educate new students about what it means to be ‘brave’ at events such as the Freshman Orientation and how that passing of knowledge emulates the oral traditions of the Wappo themselves. In a sense, the mascot is doing exactly what it is meant to do—unifying a school community.

“We are thrilled and honored to have the blessing of the Wappo Tribal Council in pursuing a mascot for the Braves. We look forward to a harmonious partnership and to energizing our community as we celebrate all that it means to be ‘Brave,’” concluded President Jordan. Go Braves!

Read the article in the Napa Valley Register.

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