The more I find out about the process of the name change of the Indian logo for Pocatello High School the more disgusted I become with the actions of the School District administrators, board members and especially Pocatello principal, Lisa Delonas. In an email dated Aug. 23, 2020, Lisa Delona was reaching out to select faculty at PHS and recruiting them to her cause to change the Indian logo at the school. After making her proposal to select members Mrs. Delonas writes, “Please read and give me any feedback you may have. … I know it is history in the making.” Delonas goes on to say, “Also please keep this private. I don’t want the public tipped off any sooner than they have to be. I have been asked to not speak about this.”
These statements by Principal Delonas should definitely be looked into. In the first place, why is Mrs. Delonas only reaching out to select faculty and not all? Why does Delonas not want the public tipped off? Then, who was it that told Delonas not to speak about this and what are the consequences of her violating that directive? Another question would be why would someone (a board member or her boss) keep information from the public? I know when I was a teacher and given a directive by my administrators, then violated that directive, there were consequences. Teachers, board members and administrators have to sign a code of ethics agreement that requires the utmost in honesty and integrity. Are there no consequences for Mrs. Delonas? Or, are those involved just as guilty has she? Am I the only one who wants these questions answered? The other big issue that needs to be addressed is what is the real motive behind Delonas pushing for the Indian logo to be removed? To myself, and many others it seems clear that Delonas simply wants to make a “name” for herself and “make Pocatello history”. She certainly will make history by destroying the proud name of the Indians that has stood for over a century…not something I would be proud of.
In another email dated Sept. 1, 2020 Lisa Delonas recruited and met with a very select group of faculty at PHS to promote her “making history” change of getting rid of the Indian logo. This list included most head coaches of sports teams and a few of the students “favorite” teachers. Mrs. Delonas met with these faculty members to view videos they were making. These videos were meant to influence student and faculty members to agree with the change. There were no true objective views given. It was a one sided view as to why the change should take place. There was not a discussion with everyone and there was no one listing the “cons” of getting rid of the tradition. In her address to the school board Mrs. Delonas said that “everyone” at Pocatello High School was on board with the change. In my opinion based on that information this is a blatant violation of power and position on all that were involved. The position of a teacher and principal is to present the facts; to educate properly, and let people make their own choices. When you only present one side … this is pure propaganda for personal gain … or “making history.”
The main argument for changing the name of the Indian logo was that it was “racists or discriminative.” However, isn’t it interesting that those proposing and making the changes of the Indian logo are NOT Indian or Native American? Those pushing for the change are a white principal and a school board and administrators composed of all white people. In my opinion based on what I know about this situation it looks to me like the real racists are those white people who are taking it upon themselves to speak for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. I know there were a couple of people on the tribal business council who were also seeking a change…but do they speak for the entire tribe? Did School District 25 and Lisa Delonas survey the tribe and get a majority opinion? NO! So, what gives them the right to perpetrate this change?
I have spoken with NAGA (Native American Guardian Association) and they say that in all the surveys they take with the Native American Indian, over 90 percent of them do NOT want the name changes in removing Indian names or symbols from the schools and other organizations across the United States. They claim those asking for the change are not the Indians but are mostly white school boards and administrators … so again, who are the real racists? The message of NAGA is this “Educate, don’t Eradicate.”
At the school board meeting on Sept. 15, Michelle Dan Hernandez, the great great granddaughter of Chief Pocatello spoke. She gave her genealogy to prove her relationship to chief Pocatello and she also gained permission and blessing by the tribe and her elders to speak on behalf of keeping the Indian logo at Pocatello High School. Her speech was sincere, valid and heartfelt. However, when she neared the three-minute mark of her speech she was told to “wrap it up” by chairman of the board, Dave Mattson. It was obvious Mrs. Hernandez had more to say but Mattson wanted to silence her. The only other person Mattson told to “wrap it up” was another Native American, Mr. Hawthorne who was also in favor of keeping the Indian logo. I myself went over the time limit as did others but I nor anyone else was told by Mattson to “wrap it up.” Tell me, who was being racist? I again ask, why is it that others are deciding what is right for the Native American Indians? Why does Lisa Delonas and our school board get to decide what is correct? Wouldn’t it be fair, right and correct to ask the patrons of School District 25 to choose? Wouldn’t it be right to get the consensus of all the Shoshone-Bannock people in such a decision? If the majority of the tribe and Pocatello choose to change then we and myself included, will go along with this. However, the way this and other “behind closed door” actions have been and are handled it is clear the school board and administrators have their own agenda and it is NOT in favor with the voice of the people.
The changing of the Indian logo at PHS is just one example. The board also did not listen to the voice of the people on Sept. 18 when many parents and community members wanted their secondary students back in school full time and not on a Hybrid schedule.
All of these actions by our school administrators and board members are inappropriate and are a violation of the position they hold. Our schools are “public schools,” funded and controlled by the public. This being the case, why is it that the public voices are not heard or even acknowledged? Even at this time thousands of people have signed a petition to keep the Indian logo at Pocatello High School and the district makes no effort to accommodate or let alone acknowledge the voice of the people. In fact, School district employee Courtney Fisher has asked that Superintendent Doug Howell, all board members and herself stop receiving the petition notices from “Change.org” of those who do NOT want the Indian logo changed. This is just another example of the fact that the school administrators and board members do not respect or even want to know the concerns of the public.
Change is definitely needed … but NOT with getting rid of the Indian logo. In my opinion based on what I have learned about this situation the change needed is to recall these board members and look into our administrators and their “behind closed door” actions that do not promote integrity, honesty and fair play. Everywhere I go throughout the town people keep telling me that they are grateful that others and myself are standing up and trying to make our voices heard. However…we need the help of all of you who share these concerns and beliefs. We cannot fight this fight alone and you need to let your voice be heard. Write letters, sign the recall petition and get out and do what you believe and know is right. Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (and women) to do nothing.” We are fighting the “evil” of people who believe their position gives them the right to make decisions for others … this is not true. Please take a stand and let your voices be heard.
Clayton Armstrong is a lifelong resident of Pocatello, a 1978 graduate of Pocatello High School, and a graduate of Idaho State University. He retired after a 33-year teaching career with School District 25. He was a coach in the district for 35 years, including 20 years at Pocatello High School. Armstrong also owns a local business, Armstrong Sprinklers and Landscaping LLC.