West Hill’s logo and name change

A move by West Hill Collegiate to eliminate the original mid-1950s Warriors logo from sports teams has been met with support by some members of the Aboriginal community.

Rachel Dennis, a peer supporter at Ryerson University’s Aboriginal Services, finds West Hill’s logo depicting an Aboriginal Warrior offensive.

The red and grey logo depicts a Native with war paint and feathers – an image some teachers and residents believe is not inclusive.

Rachel Dennis, a peer supporter with the Aboriginal Services at Ryerson University says for her personally the logo is offensive.

“It’s just the regular stereotyping of an image of an Aboriginal person and the fact that it says Warriors on it makes it a little worse, just because there is a big stereotype in history around Aboriginal Peoples and violence,” she says.

Dennis believes it appalling that images like this are still found in our society and deemed appropriate.

“If it was an image of a different culture, it wouldn’t be as acceptable,” she says.

Patricia Hodgins, principal at West Hill Collegiate, says the logo is not in line with the board equity policy.

“Teachers on the equity committee discussed it last year . . . it was interesting timing because it was at the same time the prime minister was apologizing to the Aboriginals,” she says.

Hodgins said the steering committee is yet to be established and it will include students, staff, community members, members of the Aboriginal community, and representatives from the board equity department and physical education department.

She says the committee has three options: either they can keep the Warriors name and change the logo, change both logo and name, or keep the name and not have a logo.

There does seem to be a wide separation between the image presented by the logo, and that of the Warriors’ name.

A quick survey of 20 people outside the Observer office at the HP Centre for Science and Technology showed only two tied the name “Warriors” in with Aboriginals. The other 18 thought it a reference to gladiators, Greek heroes or ancient fighters.

Grafton Atone, an elder at University of Toronto’s First Nations House, says that he doesn’t understand why the image of the Aboriginal was used in the Warriors’ logo in the first place.
He feels it’s better to find something else for the logo.
“The Western Mustangs, Toronto Varsity Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs, they do the tree thing, I don’t see anything wrong with that,” he says. “They’re inanimate objects, they’re not purporting to a people.”

But not everyone feels the logo and name should change.

Tom Varesh, a 1992 graduate of the school, has been leading an online petition to “Save the West Hill Warriors,” garnering over 900 signatures.

Varesh says the logo upholds West Hill’s history and traditions.

“The athletes, men and women, who wear the jersey, who wear the logo, and carry the name for over 50 years have done so with pride,” he says.

Varesh and the alumni feel the logo is not meant to be disrespectful in nature.

“It’s an artistic silhouette of a Mohawk warrior, and it was actually created based on the history of the region,” he says. “When you compare it to the Cleveland Indians logo, for example, which is a goofy, cartoon caricature of a Native American with a big goofy smile on its face … it’s night and day in our opinion.”

Varesh also says if you go to the First Nations’ website, the first image you see is a solemn-faced elder in a headdress.

“By definition, our logo cannot be a stereotype if the First Nations [are] portraying themselves that way,” he says. “We believe that political correctness has sort of pushed everyone to paint such logos with the same brush, when in fact there are differences.”

Hodgins says, as the principal, she appreciates the passion from the alumni but this is a change that needs to be made.

“By changing the logo, we will not be erasing any of the memories that the alumni have,” she says. “It would be an interesting opportunity for a student to come up with a new logo and be part of the next 100 years of history.”