Insight, News, and Opinion by Nick Abramo
  • April 13, 2021
Opinion: Kahuku Will Get To Keep ‘Red Raiders’ Name, But Not The Mascot And Tomahawk Chop

Editor’s note: The following story is opinion in nature, but it is based on facts and knowledge of the behind-the-scenes work by government officials and other entities and stakeholders.

Some people’s gravestones in the Kahuku area are inscribed with the words “Red Raider For Life.” Other Kahuku High graduates, athletes or sports fans who have died have used those words on their coffin. The slogan is all over the social media profiles of the living.

So, yes, the “Red Raiders” nickname is a very important part of the Kahuku sports culture and community as a whole.

And that is why I think the school will get to keep the name Red Raiders.

In reading recent media reports, the signal being sent out is that Kahuku is planning to ditch the Red Raiders name, its Native American (formerly) and Polynesian (currently) mascot (some call it a logo) and also the tomahawk chop chant by fans at games.

The way things are headed, Kahuku will not have a Native American or Polynesian logo and its fans will not be doing the tomahawk chop. The one thing most community members hold dear is the “Red Raiders” nickname, and it’s looking like they’ll get to keep that. (Photo from


All of those things together (nickname, mascot, chop) are “potentially discriminating,” according to a report by the Department of Education’s Civil Rights Compliance Branch, which responded to complaints received by the DOE from community members that those things are indeed derogatory and discriminatory.

And Kahuku High is taking this issue very seriously.

But, it must be noted, those recent news reports are misleading.

Yes, the CRCB is recommending that Kahuku take steps to choose a new mascot, as reported by various media outlets. But to be clear, the CRCB is NOT RECOMMENDING that the school change the Red Raiders nickname.

Various Kahuku Alumni Association members (stakeholders, so to speak) told Bedrock Sports Hawaii that they are in favor of a compromise that would include the choosing of a new mascot and eliminating the tomahawk chop, but keeping that very near and dear Red Raiders nickname.

And there is precedence. Over at Kauai High on the Garden Isle, the school’s nickname is Red Raiders and its mascot, according to, is an eagle. But unlike at Kahuku, there are no known formal complaints made to the DOE about Kauai High’s nickname.

Logically speaking, then, if the name Kauai Red Raiders with an eagle is OK, then Kahuku Red Raiders with a (insert future mascot here) should be OK. That’s my opinion here at Bedrock Sports Hawaii. It makes an awful lot of sense and is a pretty good compromise.

It’s obvious to me that Kahuku did not intend to be racist when it chose a Native American for a mascot a long time ago. And it’s obvious that the school tried to alleviate charges of racism by changing the Native American to a Polynesian.

And even though those in the alumni association as well as some other community members are in favor of this compromise, there will undoubtedly be those who want to keep the old mascot. And there will be others, still, who think the school should lose the Red Raiders nickname.

Red Raiders For Life, a Kahuku community aspiration.


But when all is said and done, the best way to go about it (in my opinion) is to go through this compromise of keeping the name and and taking a good, long time to pick a new mascot, one that will be powerful for the whole community.

And even if rogue fans do the tomahawk chop in the stands, it won’t be for very long. It’s evident that the school administration knows that this type of celebration is derogatory. The word will spread fast and clear to anyone who doesn’t toe the line and scrap doing it.

It’s worth noting more of what the CRCB wrote in its recommendation as work continues to be done for a final resolution to the issue:

>> “There is not a perfect solution to this issue. Stakeholders will not be completely satisfied with the outcome. It is however our hope that the stakeholders can live with the determination that is made and realize that something other than a Native American or Polynesian figure can serve as an appropriate representation of (Kahuku) and its community.”

Again, the CRCB writes NOTHING about steps to change the nickname. It wants Kahuku to move away from something “other than a Native American or Polynesian figure.”

And that’s why we here at Bedrock Sports Hawaii believe that all of those people who put “Red Raiders for Life” on their gravestone or coffin and all of those people who use it on social media or elsewhere to show their love of their school will not be denied.

They will, indeed, be Red Raiders For Life. And beyond.


1. That the School Community Council (“SCC”), in consultation with the school administration and a neutral third party engage in a process of identifying individuals from each stakeholder group (parents, community members, teachers, students, administration, and classified staff) who are willing to participate in a process to determine what the new mascot will be. It should be noted that voices from both sides of the issue should be represented.

2. A neutral third party will facilitate the process of determining what the new mascot will be.

3. It is crucial that the identified individuals agree to work in concert with the facilitator on the development of the process that will be used to determine what the new mascot will be.

4. The facilitator guides a discussion with the stakeholders that identifies the strengths and aspirations of the Kahuku community to assist in identifying the hopes, dreams and values of the Kahuku community at large.

5. The facilitator works with the stakeholders to identify what image accurately represents the hopes, dreams and values of the KHIS community.

6. The group makes a recommendation to Complex Area Superintendent Matt Ho (“CAS Ho”) and KHIS Principal Dr. Donna Lindsey (“Principal Lindsey”).

7. CAS Ho and Principal Lindsey seek consultation with CRCB as they deem appropriate.

8. CAS Ho and Principal Lindsey make the final determination of what the new KHIS mascot will be.

The CRCB recognizes that there is not a perfect solution to this issue. Stakeholders will not be completely satisfied with the outcome. It is however our hope that the stakeholders can live with the determination that is made and realize that something other than a Native American or Polynesian figure can serve as an appropriate representation of KHIS and its community.

Another editor’s note: Part of the confusion about the recent reports stems from the fact that some people think of a the definition of “mascot” as the team’s nickname when, in actuality, the term in the dictionary means “a person or thing that brings good luck to a team.” So, when reading about this issue, it’s important to remember that there is a crucial difference between “nickname” and “mascot.”

ALSO AT BedrockSportsHawaii: Hawaii roars back to oust visting New Mexico 39-33 in home opener

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