Anaheim High ‘Colonists’ vote to keep mascot name, despite criticism

By Kathryn Barnes

Anaheim High School’s mascot, called “the Colonist,” is a man dressed in a traditional pilgrim outfit, towering over a capital “A,” and leaning on a musket. It was chosen in 1921 to represent the Prussian-German settlers who established Anaheim as a colony in 1857.

“The student body decided, we want to refer to that history of our founding fathers and mothers,” says LA Times columnist Gustavo Arellano, a graduate of Anaheim High School whose latest newsletter explains why he does not think the name is problematic.

“I had no problem with the nickname because it referred to the founders of Anaheim — a colony of German immigrants who created a winemaking cooperative, whose descendants remembered it as the mother colony, and what was offensive about that?” he writes.

But this month, after an online petition to replace the mascot garnered thousands of signatures, the student body wrestled with the historical and cultural story behind its name. Put to a vote, 41% of students said they want to keep the name “Colonist” and images, 34% want to keep the name but rebrand the images, and 21% want to replace the name and images with something completely new. The Board of Trustees plans to vote in December.

The front exterior of Anaheim High School is seen circa 1900. Photo credit: Digitally reproduced by the USC Digital Library, from the California Historical Society Collection at the University of Southern California.

Arellano sympathizes with the argument that Anaheim is built on the ancestral land of the Gabrielino-Tongva people, but says other Anaheim high schools have much more offensive names.

“Go down to Anaheim Hills, where you have the Esperanza ‘Aztecs,’ the Canyon High ‘Comanches,’ or better yet, go to our longtime rival the Fullerton ‘Indians,’” he says.