Hundreds Sign Petition Urging Burroughs High to Change Mascot

Photo by Christian Leonard / The Leader
Photo by Charles Hirsch / The Leader
An online petition has more than 1,300 signatures asking Burroughs High School to change its mascot, accusing it of being a racist symbol. Other residents argue that the mascot honors Native Americans and want to keep it.

More than 1,300 people have signed a petition that asks John Burroughs High School to change its mascot, the Indian, arguing that it is a racist and outdated symbol.
The online petition, which says it was authored by some members of Burroughs’ class of 2004, references a long-standing campaign by the National Congress of American Indians, which in 2005 signed a resolution opposing “the use of racist and demeaning ‘Indian’ sports mascots.”
“No one’s culture should be used as a mascot,” the petition reads, “and it’s time to choose something else to represent JBHS and its student population. As Indigenous community members have requested of the school repeatedly, this mascot needs to make an immediate change.”
The petition does not give a suggestion for a new mascot, saying that the choice should be left up to current students. Burroughs’ student government, the Associated Student Body, facilitates the school’s mascot selection process, according to Burbank Unified School District Superintendent Matt Hill, who said he has received some emails regarding the current mascot.
“The mascot is selected by the students via the ASB bylaws,” he said in an email. “The ASB president and [Burroughs Principal Deborah] Madrigal will work with the students to share the process to change the name.”
Madrigal did not respond to a request for comment by The Leader’s press deadline. BUSD employees are currently on summer break.
Hill pointed to a section in the ASB bylaws outlining the process of establishing school traditions. The bylaws state that “the Indian shall be the official Burroughs’ emblem” and explain that school traditions must be first approved by school administration before being established by an ASB vote.
Though many have expressed a desire to the school’s mascot changed, there are some who oppose the move. Jennifer Lombardo, who graduated from Burroughs in 1992 and is part Sioux, told The Leader she views the mascot as a symbol of strength and pride, rather than an offensive stereotype.
“It was quite disturbing to see that somebody wanted to change that mascot,” she said in a phone interview. “I feel that that is something that John Burroughs was trying to pay homage to, the American Indian.”
Lombardo also argued that the money needed to change Burroughs’ branding would be better spent on the school’s curriculum and technology.
The issue of the mascot came up in 2001, Lombardo said, but the symbol was not changed.
The history of Burroughs’ controversial symbol extends back decades. The school’s 1971 yearbook contains photos of the “Injunettes,” the school’s cheerleading squad at the time, wearing uniforms with feathered headdresses. The name is a reference to “Injun,” a term for Native Americans that often is considered offensive, and was later changed to the “Indianettes.” That moniker also is no longer in use by the school.
Since George Floyd died after an encounter with Minneapolis police in May, many educational institutions across the nation have announced they were changing the names of buildings and schools that made reference to Confederate soldiers or figures who some say have ties to racist ideas.
For instance, Flintridge Preparatory School in La Cañada Flintridge and Quartz Hill High School in the Antelope Valley both recently changed their mascots from the Rebels, a name associated with Confederate soldiers.
But in Burroughs’ case, Lombardo believes the mascot is an important piece of history and a respectful nod toward Native American culture.
“Our younger generation really needs to value [American] history,” she said. “Without symbolism, that history can get a little bit twisted and tainted…
“I believe that there have been a lot of very large mistakes that this country has made in creating America. However, that is a part of our history, still. If you don’t look at how we got here, you won’t appreciate the past.”