“It’s a symbol of who we are.”
Image via screen capture
Recently, Jakobe Sanden was pulled from class at Arrowhead Elementary School in Santa Clara, Utah. The second-grader wasn’t removed for disruptive behavior, but his new “distracting” haircut, a Mohawk. The seven-year-old was sent directly to the principal’s office because his haircut violated school policy---although there is no written school policy regarding haircuts.
Jakobe’s father had a very strong reason for insisting that his son’s hair not be cut. “I told the superintendent I was in no means going to cut his hair,” Gary Sanden said to The Washington Post, “because it’s a symbol of who we are.” The school principal’s reasoning was, “We had students that weren’t used to it… So the teacher brought the student to my attention.” Why the administrators didn’t explain the haircut’s cultural significance to the children in class, instead of removing Jakobe, wasn’t mentioned.
“It’s ironic that the school is named Arrowhead,” Gary Sanden said. In order for administrators to allow Jakobe back in class with the Mohawk they demanded his parents get papers from tribal leaders to explain the hair style’s significance. “That’s like calling up the governor of a state,” Sanden said. “But I called and got the letter.” After receiving the letter, administrators allowed Jakobe back in class.
Here’s an excerpt from the Seneca Nation’s letter:
“From past centuries to the modern era, Native boys have worn their hair in various lengths and styles to demonstrate their pride in their heritage. It is common for Seneca boys to wear a Mohawk because after years of discrimination and oppression, they are proud to share who they are. It’s disappointing that your school does not view diversity in a positive manner, and it is our hope that Jakobe does not suffer from any discrimination by the school administration or faculty as a result of his hair cut.”