(Note: The counter petition was started by Fatu Te‘o-Tafiti and has been updated as of July 9, 9 a.m.)
A petition drive is underway to change the nickname of Kahuku High School.
The school has been “Red Raiders” for decades after receiving much-needed uniforms from ‘Iolani generations ago. While ‘Iolani later dropped “Red” from its nickname two decades ago, Kahuku has thrived in athletics and has a rich tradition, particularly in football.
The online petition has 478 signatures as of 3 p.m., Wednesday. Kahuku graduate Kainoa Kester started the petition, which had 139 likes and 69 comments on a Facebook post by Norman “T-Man” Thompson, an uncle of Kester. The petition is titled, “Change Kahuku High’s Racist Mascot.”
As of Thursday, 9 a.m., Kester’s petition has 570 signatures.
A counter petition has drummed up even more support. Fatu Te‘o-Tafiti’s petition, titled “Petition Against Dumb Petition,” had 991 signatures as of Wednesday, 3 p.m. on the same change.org site.
The counter petition has been shared by some former Kahuku football players, including Kaniela Tuipulotu on social media. The counter petition now has 1,086 signatures as of Thursday, 9 a.m.
Between the two posts for two petitions, there was plenty of banter.
“I am a Red Raider for Life, but what does it even mean to be a Red Raider,” wrote Maria Matagi Tejada. “It’s not in the name. It’s in the community. It is the people, which would never change. I’ve always disliked the fact that our name came from hand-me-down uniforms.”
Jess Benioni-Naluai agreed to disagree with Kester.
“I don’t agree with his method of approach. He could have chose to go a different route to open up dialogue on a very sensitive issue,” Benioni-Naluai wrote. “To go directly to change.org, especially during these tenuous political times, is definitely inviting a lot of toxic divisiveness. I hope he tries a different approach. Open up the conversation to the entire community. Do something that is inclusive rather than exclusive. Can’t fault someone for trying, though.”
Thompson views the petition drive as a positive.
“I think people get intimidated by change.org petitions more than they should, since their petitions are merely to ‘empower people everywhere to create the change they want to see.’ It holds little political power in and of itself. I think it’s a good way to jump start the discussion, which it clearly has,” Thompson wrote.
The history of the Red Raiders nickname goes back to the Father Bray era at ‘Iolani. In 1950, the private school in Moiliili donated jerseys to Kahuku. With “Red Raiders” on the jerseys, Kahuku adopted the nickname. Prior to that, the unofficial nickname was “Ramberiers”, according to the school website.
>> Through the 1940’s Kahuku had developed sufficiently and there was competing in sports events against other high schools on the North Shore and the Windward sections of the Island of Oahu, and it won its first football championship in 1947. This was the first in a long line of championships that began the development of many championship players as well.
Prior to Ramberiers, the mascot is believed by some to have been a mythical menehune.
In the 1990s, the Red Raiders mascot took on a Native American look, which continued for two decades as Kahuku’s prominence in football continued. Fan favorites like the tomahawk chant became prominent, particularly at home games and big postseason battles at Aloha Stadium where fans from the North Shore flooded the facility en masse. Kahuku’s tomahawk chant is arguably the most impressive example of fan-fueled support in the islands, perhaps the nation.
By the mid 2010s, the mascot took on a Polynesian adaptation with a tattoo and red ti leaves. The new art was created by the Kahuku Rugby Club, and adopted by the school, and remains today as a popular part of the athletic program.
“It wasn’t made for the school. Kahuku Rugby are not affiliated with the school in any way except for the town,” Seamus Fitzgerald wrote. “Not that it really matters now, but all the same it’s intriguing.”
Another Kahuku alum and cousin of T-Man Thompson, Tia Thompson, weighed the anti-Red Raider nickname petition against other community issues.
“With all the things going on such as the invasive turbines, Envision Laie, development of Malaekahana and COVID-19, this should be the least of our worries,” she wrote. “The mascot was changed to the Polynesian warrior with (red) ti leaf and tattoo. Pau, leave it alone! Tomahawk chop, good luck with that.”
There are well-known names on either side. T-Man Thompson, a Kamehameha school teacher once sang “Unchained Melody” to a packed house at BYU-Hawaii.
To see the Kester petition, click here.
To see the Te‘o-Tafiti petition, click here.